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DOEsSciENCE prcp^e 
the Bible Wong? 

No Conflict Between Science 
and Genesis 

Wliy Genesis Was Written 

GodSaid, "LetTiiereBe..." 

"Male and Female He Created Them ..." 

"The Lord God Put Man In the Garden" 

The Flood and the Ark 

Cain's Wife . . .The Tower of Babel 


Why the Kn/gAis of Co/mks 
Advertise Cutholic Faith 

The reason is simple. We Catho- 
lics want our non-Catholic friends 
and neighbors to know us as we 
really are and not as we are some 
times mistakenly represented. 

We are confident that when 
our religious Faith is better un- 
derstood by those who do not 
share it, mutual understanding 
will promote the good-will which 
is so necessary in a predominant- 
ly Christian country whose gov- 
ernment is designed to serve all 
the people— no matter how much 
their religious convictions may 

American Catholics are con- 
vinced that as the teachings of 
Christ widely and firmly take 
hold of the hearts and conduct 
of our people, we shall remain 
free in the sense that Christ 
promised (John VIII, 31-38). 
and in the manner planned by 
the Founding Fathers of this 

Despite the plainly stated will 
of the Good Shepherd that there 
be "one fold and one shepherd," 
the differences in the understand- 
ing of Christ's teaching are 
plainly evident. It has rightfully 
been called "the scandal of a 
divided Christianity." 

If there is anything which will 
gather together the scattered 
flock of Christ, it is the nation- 
wide understanding of the 
Savior, what He did and how He 
intended mankind to benefit by 
the Redemption. 

To this end, we wish our 
fellow-Americans to become ac- 
quainted with the teachings of 
Christ as the Catholic Church 
has faithfully presented them, 
since the day the apostles in- 
vaded the nations of the world 
in willing and courageous obedi- 
ence to Christ's command: "Go, 
therefore, and make disciples of 
all nations . . ." (Matt. XXVIII, 


Religious Information Bureau 

No Conflict Between Science 
and Genesis 

This pamphlet has been written for 
two classes of people, but with one 
purpose. The purpose is simply 
stated: it is to explain the meaning 
of the so-called "prehistorical" sec- 
tions of the book of Genesis, that 
is, the first eleven chapters. Neces- 
sarily, such an explanation also 
entails, in some cases, making clear 
what these sections do not mean. 

The two classes for which this 
explanation has been made are be- 
lievers and non-believers. By ''be- 
liever" is understood one who 
accepts the inspired character of 
the Bible, that it is the Word of 
God. By "non-believer" is meant one 
who does not make this affirmation. 

Both classes experience difficulty 
with Genesis, and particularly with 
the books first few chapters. 
Though the difficulty of each class 
differs, the origin of the difficulty 
is the same. What they read seems 
to clash with what the world at 
large now commonly admits as 
proved scientific fact, concerning 
the nature of the world and of man 
and their beginnings. 

For the believer the difficulty is 
one of perplexity. He has what he 
knows to be God s word, the word 
therefore of One Who cannot be 
deceived, and he wonders how he 

is to reconcile the seeming contra- 
dictions of this word with the great 
fund of knowledge which modern 
science has made known to the 
world. He wants to be able to ac- 
cept both the Bible and what 
science assures him to be fact. He 
wants his faith to be an intelligent 
faith. He has been told that there 
is no real conflict between faith and 
reason, when both are properly 
understood. He has the right, there- 
fore, to see this assertion proved in 
the case of the book of Genesis. 

The non-believer's difficulty is 
not always recognized by him as a 
difficulty. The non-believer may 
think that he has no difficulty 
whatever. Convinced that the Bible 
is at best a harmless collection of 
ancient Jewish folklore, he may 
think that there is no more reason 
that it should agree with a scientific 
view of the world than should 
Grimms Fairy Tales or Aesop's 

Of the difficulties, then, the 
latter may be the more harmful. 
At the worst, the believer may re- 
main in his perplexity, but the non- 
believer may have closed his mind 
to the serious examination of what 
a large proportion of the world 
firmly considers to be the word of 


God to man—which, if this persu- 
asion be true, tells man many things 
for which there is no other possible 
source of information. 

In either case, the difficulty is 
occasioned by an incorrect inter- 
pretation of the meaning of Genesis. 
It follows that a correct interpreta- 
tion of Genesis' meaning— the pur- 
pose of this pamphlet — is the 
answer to these difficulties. 

Obviously a pamphlet of this size 
cannot answer every question that 
has arisen in this connection, nor 
can it answer any question in con- 
siderable detail. What it can do is 
to give a brief sketch of what 
modern reverent and scientific in- 
terpretations of Genesis have to say 
about the meaning of those chapters 
of the Bible that describe the origin 
of man and his world. 

The final interpretation of Gene- 
sis—and of the vast majority of the 

Bible s passages— has yet to be de- 
termined. There is no "official" 
stamp attached to any of the ex- 
planations that are offered here. 
The Church leaves her scholars free 
to determine the meaning of the 
Scripture by the application of the 
scientific methods now available 
through the great advances in the 
world's knowledge that have taken 
place in the past few generations. 
The conclusions with the teaching 
of faith, they make as those who 
believe in a God who has revealed 

This pamphlet can do no more 
than summarize what modern 
Christian interpreters of the Bible 
—who believe in the Bible as God s 
word, which is ever capable of be- 
ing better understood through the 
increase of men s knowledge— have 
concluded concerning the first 
eleven chapters of Genesis. 


But, you may ask, does not science deny the existence of super- 
natural phenomena? Does it not claim that matter and energy are 
sufficient to explain everything of which we can have knowledge? 
The answer is emphatically No. Science is simply and solely an 
account of the part of experience that science studies, and so it is 
impossible that science should tell us anything certain about the 
part of experience that it has not studied. Supernatural phe- 
nomena cannot form a part of science, and science can neither 
affirm nor deny them, but only say that it has not observed them. 

In the Holy Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church, we find 
a perfect moral system and a way of passing beyond material 
things to God. Matters of science appear only incidentally and as 
illustrations rather than as matter. In science we find a wonderful 
picture of the make-up and movement of matter, but in it not the 
slightest reference to morals or to God. The two systems are com- 
plementary and no man has yet had the power to grasp them under 
a single view as God doubtless grasps them. Meanwhile there is 
room for both of them in our minds. Both are aspects of truth and 
if they appear to conflict, the fault is in our poor understandings, 
and not in science or religion. — The Attitude of the Church to 
Science, F. Sherwood Taylor, Ph.D. 


Why Genesis Was Written 

Dr. Albert Einstein has 
written that ''the man who 
regards his own life and that 
of his fellow creatures as 
meaningless, is not merely 
unfortunate but almost dis- 
qualified for life." 

Though they did not ex- 
press themselves in these 
terms, the men who wrote 
the Old Testament have told 
us that this was also their conviction. 
They have told us through the 
character of the books they wrote. 
And of all the books of the Old 
Testament, none expresses this con- 
viction more clearly than does the 
book of Genesis. 

Genesis is part of what today we 
call "the Pentateuch," from the 
Greek word meaning the first jive 
books of the Old Testament, which 
were originally joined together as 
a single work. The Jews called this 
work "the Law," because the climax 
of its story, as told in Exodus and 
Numbers, is the revelation on 
Mount Sinai of the law given by 
God through Moses, and because 
much of the remainder of the five 
books is taken up with the specific 
prescriptions of the Mosaic law. 

Just when the Pentateuch was 
divided up into the five books we 

Numbers, and Deuteronomy, 
we do not know. Just when, 
in fact, the narratives and 
legislation of the Pentateuch 
were drawn up into their 
present form by their in- 
spired authors and editors, 
we likewise do not know. 
Biblical scholars have learned 
a great deal about the Penta- 
teuch during the past several 
generations, and today we know 
much more about it than was pos- 
sible for our ancestors, but it is no 
exaggeration to say that there is 
more unknown than known about 
its history and composition. 

In earlier times the answers to 
these questions were thought quite 
simple. Moses, the great lawgiver 
of the Hebrews, was traditionally 
the acknowledged author of the 
Pentateuch. Today while we still 
speak of the Pentateuch as substan- 
tially Mosaic, meaning that much of 
it goes back to him as its ultimate 
source, we know that these books as 
we now have them could not have 
been written by him in their entirety. 
The Pentateuch is the result of a 
long process of compilation and 
editing, to which many inspired 
writers and editors of many differ- 

now call Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, ent ages contributed. In its final 


form it represents what might be 
called a distillation of the best 
religious thinking of the Hebrew 
people, which reached its climax 
and conclusion in the fifth century 
before Christ. 

To many readers, the question of 
the authorship of the Pentateuch, 
and its time of composition, may 
be pointless. Yet it is always im- 
portant to know when and by whom 
a book was written, if we are to 
make any headway at all in under- 
standing what the author is trying 
to say. This is why we know that 
as our knowledge of these matters 
increases, as it will with further 
study and the many means for 
study that are available to us in the 
present time, we shall in the future 
be able to interpret the meaning of 
the Pentateuch in a much more 
detailed and satisfactory way than 
we can do even now— just as today 
we can do so much more than the 
men of the past were able to do. 

The Pentateuch 

On the basis of what we now 
know, we can see that the Penta- 
teuch was the attempt made by 
inspired authors to interpret the 
history of the past to the people of 
Israel. This history it traced from 
the time of Abraham, the father of 
the Hebrew race, (1900-1800 B.C., 
according to the best estimates), 
down to the beginning of the 
conquest of the promised land of 
Palestine, after the exodus from the 
slavery of Egypt (sometime in the 
thirteenth century, B.C. ) . All of the 
facts of this history were inter- 
preted in the light of God's provi- 
dence and His special consideration 

for the people of His choice, whom 
He elected to be His witnesses in 
the world, and from whom He 
would eventually call a Savior of 
the world. 

Truths in History 

Thus the purpose and intention 
of the Pentateuch is the key to its 
interpretation. It was written by 
profoundly religious men who saw 
history not merely as cold facts, but 
as the record of God s dealing with 
men. It was written to tell the 
Hebrews who they were, how and 
why God had chosen them, the 
great things He had done for them, 
and what He expected of them. 
This religious character possessed 
by the Pentateuch does not lessen 
its historical content, but it tells us 
what history meant to the men who 
wrote it. It is history not for its 
own sake, but history intended to 
teach religious truths. 

The historical character of the 
Pentateuch enjoys great prestige 
today, now that we are able actually 
to check some of the facts that it 
relates. A century ago there was no 
science of archaeology to speak of, 
but today no terrain has been so 
thoroughly explored as that which 
the Bible describes. Men have dug 
beneath the surface of the earth to 
reveal the buried civilizations of the 
past which lived before the Penta- 
teuch was written, and it has been 
discovered that they were accurately 
depicted in the sacred books of 
Israel. Records of the past in a 
score of ancient, forgotten lan- 
guages have been brought to light 
and painfully deciphered, and the 
story they have to tell coincides 


marvelously with the story of the 
Bible. The historical sources used 
by the Biblical writers were amaz- 
ingly correct, even to details. 

The story of Abraham's migra- 
tion, for example, first from Ur in 
southern Mesopotamia to Harran 
in northern Syria, and finally to 
Canaan or Palestine, as told in 
Genesis 11-12, coincides with what 
archaeology tells us of the move- 
ments of peoples at this time. These 
cities mentioned in the text, which 
had long since disappeared before 
Genesis was written, have been ex- 
cavated to tell us of the thriving 
civilizations they once supported. 
The places in which Abraham is 
said to have lived— Sichem, Hebron, 
the Negeb or southern desert— are 
precisely the places which were in- 
habited in those days, as archaeology 
now proves. The inheritance and 
marriage laws reflected in Genesis 
15:1-4, 16:1-2, in the story of 
Jacob and Laban, etc., laws which 
were not practised by the Jews 
under the Mosaic law at the time 
these books were composed, we now 
know through the discovery of the 
ancient law-codes of Mesopotamia 

and Palestine were certainly in force 
during the times of the patriarchs. 

The list of these coincidences 
could be extended indefinitely. Al- 
most every day new evidence is 
forthcoming to tell us how accurate 
were the records upon which the 
Pentateuch depends. Even the most 
severe critics of the Bible, conse- 
quently, today have a healthy re- 
spect for the historicity of the 

To this historical account. Gene- 
sis 1-11 forms the introduction. 
Before Abraham, the first of the 
Hebrews, a summary is given of 
the origins of mankind, and the 
gradual narrowing down of God's 
providential plan until the father 
of the chosen people emerges. 


In our sense of history, these 
introductory chapters cannot be 
called historical, for they deal with 
the time before history began. In 
the sense, however, that they are 
an attempt to state facts, not fables, 
and to describe certain fundamental 
truths that are real and not mythi- 
cal, they can be called historical. 
The writers who were so careful in 
their selection of historical matter 
throughout the remainder of the 
Pentateuch were no less careful in 
what they included in this intro- 

But it is above all essential to 
bear in mind what purpose they in- 
tended to serve in this introduction. 
To write a complete history of 
mankind from the first year of 
creation was the farthest thing from 
their minds. To give facts for facts' 


sake was not their idea of writing 

Their intention was primarily 
religious, and this introduction was 
intended by them to give the basis 
for the sacred history of the Hebrew 
people that was to follow. Among 
other things, these truths appear 
taught in these first chapters: The 
creation of all things by God in 
the beginning of time . . . The spe- 
cial creation of man as the object 
of God's particular providence . . . 
The Unity of the human race . . . 
The orginal state of man's blessed- 
ness, lost through original sin . . . 
The promise of Redemption . . . The 
providential plan by which God 
eventually would bring about this 

All these and other religious 
facts, many of which depended 
upon divine revelation, are set 
forth in Genesis 1-11 under the 
form of a narrative. They are 
cloaked in highly imaginative, 
poetic language, containing much 
imagery and figures of speech. They 
are not, of course, the account of 
eye-witnesses of the facts related. 

Nobody was present when God 
created the world. They knew no 
more than do we the exact manner 
in which God brought about crea- 
tion. Neither were they much in- 
terested in the question. But of the 
fact of creation itself they were 
very, very sure, and it is this fact 
that they intended to teach. 

The remaining articles of this 
pamphlet will proceed to take up, 
one by one, the different religious 
truths which are taught in the first 
few chapters of Genesis. Inevitably 
this will mean also that we must 
designate a number of things which 
these chapters definitely do not 
reach. To some extent at least, it is 
almost as important to determine 
the latter as the former. 

No Real Conflict 

We must anticipate an objection 
that will almost certainly be made. 
The interpretation that will be of- 
fered here will disagree in many 
ways at least with those made in 
bygone days. To take an example, 
consider the description of creation 
in Genesis 1:1-2:3, which poeti- 
cally presents the formation of the 
visible world and its inhabitants in 
six days. The early Christians took 
this description at its face value. 
We do not. We say that while the 
Biblical account is true to the extent 
it was intended to teach truth— 
namely, the fact of creation itself— 
the details of the account need not 
be taken literally, but are there for 
various literary reasons, most of 
which we can determine with fair 
accuracy. Why should we be right, 
and the early Christians wrong? 

There are various reasons. As 


Pope Pius XII has written, *'for the 
last fifty years the conditions of 
Biblical studies and their subsidi- 
aries have greatly changed," so that 
"much light has been derived from 
these explorations for the more 
correct and fuller understanding of 
the Sacred Books." 

In the first place, our early an- 
cestors had no particular reason to 
reject such a matter as a literal 
six-day creation. There had not 
then been made the scientific dis- 
coveries that have enabled us to 
calculate the vast age of the world. 
The science of geology was un- 
known, by which we have dis- 
covered how the world was 
gradually formed over a period of 
millions of years. In the absence 
of these known facts, the older 
commentators were following the 
soundest kind of interpretation in 
taking the account of Genesis — 
the only one available then in the 
whole world— and accepting it just 
as it stood. 

Changing Times 

Such a process would be for us as 
wrong as it was right for our pre- 
decessors. We have knowledge that 
was lacking to them, knowledge 
that must be weighed and calcu- 
lated in our interpretation. If we 
have two possible interpretations to 
be given anything, one of which 
contradicts and the other of which 
does not contradict another fact 
that we know, we can be sure that 
the contradictory interpretation is 
the wrong one. There is logic in 
the universe, and man's knowledge 
is no exception to this rule. We 
cannot embrace contradictories. If 

a certain scientific fact is true, its 
contradictory cannot be true. Hence 
we must take into consideration in 
explaining the Bible facts which 
were unknown a few generations 
ago. This results in interpretations 
which obviously will differ with 
older ones. 

Again, we know more about 
what the Bible is than did our 
predecessors. We have already said 
that while the average reader may 
think the question of the date and 
authorship of the sacred books does 
not immediately concern him, it is 
nevertheless a most important one. 
Here is a clear example of that fact. 

In older times the Bible was 
taken as God's word in a rather 
narrow sense. If Moses was the 
author of Genesis, and if Genesis 
in its first few chapters describes 
facts which nobody but God could 
know precisely, then— it was con- 
cluded—God must have revealed 
Genesis pretty much as it stands 
to Moses. Hence there was the 
tendency to interpret the first 
chapters of Genesis as though God 
had dictated every word there and, 


therefore, as though every word 
there must have an equal value. 

We know now that Genesis was 
not written in this way at all. It was 
written under divine inspiration, 
yes, but it was not dictated by the 
Almighty. Inspiration implies that 
it contains those things which God 
has intended that it shall contain, 
and that it does not teach error, but 
it does not mean that the human 
writer was exempt from the ordi- 
nary rules of writing in the collec- 
tion of his material. That is to say, 
the Biblical authors used source 
materials, written or oral, and 
compiled their works as other men 
do. The revealed facts that are 
contained in their work also come 
from these same traditional sources. 

The older critics knew this in 
principle— as far back as the thir- 
teenth century St. Thomas Aquinas 
taught very clearly that an inspired 
book was no different from any 
other as far as the writer s industry 
in gathering his material was con- 
cerned. But they did not have the 
direct evidence we have to show 
that this theory is verified in practice 
in Genesis. 

New Discoveries 

We have within the past decades 
unearthed some of the ancient 
literatures of the Middle East which 
flourished among the peoples of 
Biblical times. In numerous in- 
stances parallels have been found to 
parts of the Genesis account— paral- 
lels which are too similar to be the 
result of chance. These parallels are 
not the sources of the Biblical ac- 
counts, but, together with the 
Biblical account, they point to a 

more remote source from which 
they both descended. This is one 
way that the composite nature of 
Genesis has been shown. 

Another way is from an analysis 
of the book itself. As we shall say 
later on, some stories, such as that 
of the Flood, for example, can quite 
easily be seen to consist of two or 
more parallel accounts of the same 
fact, woven together by the Biblical 
author. The divergencies in detail 
between these accounts allow us to 
distinguish the component parts. 

What Authors Meant 

What bearing does this factor 
have on our interpretation of 
Genesis? A very great one indeed. 
We now know that the Biblical 
author in many instances, far from 
handing on information that had 
been revealed to him personally, 
was quoting a traditional source, or 
several sources together. Our whole 
principle of interpretation thus 
changes. It is no longer so important 
what the passage may have originally 
meant, but what the Biblical atithor 
meant by using it. 

Let us take an example from an- 
other book, where the application 
is easier to see. In Judges 9:7ff., 
Jotham tells a story to the men of 
Sichem which begins in these 
words: "The trees once went forth 
to anoint a king over them; and 
they said to the olive tree, 'Reign 
over us.' " If we take this story 
told by Jotham at its literal face 
value, we should learn that trees 
talk, that they elect kings for them- 
selves, and the like. But obviously 
they do not. Nor does the Bible 
teach that they do. Nor did Jotham 


believe that they did. He cited the 
story to teach a lesson, much in the 
manner of the parables told by our 

Now unfortunately, it was not 
always the policy of ancient writers 
to tell us as clearly as this when 
they were quoting. In fact, they 
generally did not. This quoted ma- 
terial in the Bible— which was gen- 
erally unrecognized as such by our 
ancestors— we have had to deter- 
mine in the more painful and 
difficult manner mentioned above, 
through comparison with other an- 
cient literature and through patient 
analysis of the Bible itself. 

But the principle of interpreta- 
tion must be applied to this mate- 
rial just as we instinctively apply it 
to Judges 9:7ff. or to Christ's 
parables. The teaching of the pas- 
sage is its meaning as intended by 
the author in his use of it. This is 
the meaning of the Bible, because 
it is the meaning of the inspired 

Can't Be Literal 

Now obviously, this makes a vast 
difference in our interpretation of 
many passages, as we shall see. It 
is not sufficient to say, "The Bible 
says so and so," and conclude that 
we have interpreted it. We must 
rather determine what the Biblical 
author intended to tell us when he 
wrote so and so. This is not sub- 
terfuge, but sensible interpretation. 
Even apart from an author's use of 
source material, he is capable of 
expressions which are not to be 
interpreted literally, but according 
to the sense in which he used them. 

This is what the Biblical scholars 

mean when they speak of the "liter- 
ary forms" used by the author. A 
literary form is a style of writing, 
which must be interpreted accord- 
ing to its own laws. In the case we 
used before, we have the literary 
form of fable, which Jotham used 
to teach a lesson. It must be inter- 
preted as a fable, not as fact, though 
it teaches a truth for all that. If we 
run across similar forms in the 
Bible, whether or not they are as 
clearly defined as this one, they 
must receive a similar interpreta- 
tion using the same principle. 

Evidently, therefore, interpreta- 
tion of the Bible does not consist 
in a wooden assertion, "The Bible 
says ..." If I tell you that I saw a 
marvelous sunset last evening, you 
have no right to tell my friends that 
I believe— contrary to sciejice— that 
the sun rises and sets, /You have no 
right to justify your statement by 
retorting, "But you said . . ." for my 
statement must be interpreted ac- 
cording to its "literary form." I was 
using an accepted figure of speech, 
not intended as a scientific observa- 


tion, but a popular description. 
There are many such things in the 

Ail these considerations must be 
taken into account as we go through 
the initial chapters of Genesis. 
They are part of the "why" of 
Genesis. Genesis was not written to 
describe the world scientifically, to 
satisfy human curiosity as to the 
intimate makeup of the world and 
its inhabitants. It was written for 
an eminently religious purpose, to 
teach fundamental facts of theology. 

It was written not by scientific 
men, nor for a cultivated people, 
but by those who utilized ancient 
traditional stories which described 
things in popular, non-scientific 

These facts do not lessen the 
truth, nor the importance, of what 
Genesis says. They do not minimize 
the reverence with which we must 
approach the sacred book. They do 

not lessen its inspired character in 
the least, or make it any less the 
word of God. They do not make us 
"skeptics" or "rationalists" in our 
interpretation of the Scripture. 

They work, in fact, to the oppo- 
site of all these things. For it is 
only by their application in a dili- 
gent pursuit of an interpretation 
that rests on true scientific prin- 
ciples that we have the chance to 
discover what indeed the writer 
intended to tell us. And only when 
we have found this out, do we know 
why and to what purpose God in- 
spired the Scripture. 

Man's Intellect 

Neglect of _ these principles does 
no service to truth, to the Scripture, 
or to God. Unless we have the real 
meaning of the Scripture— which is 
only to be discovered through the 
means which the God of reason has 
placed at our disposal— we are of- 
fering to men a cheap, shoddy 
vaporing of our own prejudices and 
inclinations instead of the inspired 
word of God. "Fundamentalism" or 
"literalism" as it is sometimes 
called, is not born of respect for the 
Bible. It is born of contempt for 
man's God-given intellect. The man 
who refuses to accept what the Bible 
means because, as he insists, "the 
Bible says" something else, deserves 
no more respect or sympathy than 
the man who refuses to believe that 
the earth is round, because, he in- 
sists again, the earth is flat wher- 
ever he has seen it. 


God Said, "Let There Be... 

It is the practice, even 
among Christians, to speak 
with a kind of condescen- 
sion about the Old Testa- 
ment's picture of God. 
George Bernard Shaw, a 
genius who was often un- 
fortunately more interested 
in being witty than in being 
right, has a famous little 
book about a young girl's 
search for God, in which the Old 
Testament Jehovah who appeared 
in thunder and lightning, demand- 
ing sacrifice, is rejected with hor- 
ror. Even those who accept the 
Old Testament as God's word are 
apt to stress the primitive character 
of its revelation, and to remind us 
that the complete picture of the 
Deity is to be found only in the 
New Testament complement to the 

Now all this is true, to a certain 
extent. On the other hand, we are 
probably far too inclined to be 
apologetic about the Old Testament 
and its picture of the Almighty. 

The Jews of the Old Testament 
were probably the least philosophi- 
cally minded people ever placed in 
the world. When they thought, they 
thought in concrete, earthy terms, 
not in abstractions. When they 

thought about God, and 
wrote about Him, they did 
so in the very same way. 
What they said about God 
often surprises us by its 
down-to-earth language, for 
we have learned nicer ways 
of expression. But what they 
said about God could have 
been said by no other peo- 
ple of antiquity, and has 
been equalled only by the New 
Testament, which was also written 
by latter-day Jews. 

The Jews would have been un- 
able to develop the atomic bomb. 
The ancient Greeks, possibly the 
most philosophically minded peo- 
ple ever to be put in the world, and 
from whom the scientific method 
evolved, we can conceive as de- 
veloping the theory of nuclear fis- 
sion—they had an inkling of it, at 
any rate. But, centuries after the 
Jews were an ancient race, the 
Greeks were not within a million 
light-years of the knowledge of 
God that is in the Old Testament. 
The Greeks knew that God was 
spirit, that He could not literally 
have done some of the things that 
the Old Testament poetically de- 
scribes Him as doing. But of every- 
thing important, they were ignor- 


ant. They did not know that God 
was a Person Who could be prayed 
to, Who takes an interest in the 
world of man, Who is Father of the 
widow and the orphan. They did 
not know that He is Creator of the 

There is, consequently, more au- 
thentic information about God in 
the first two chapters of Genesis 
than in all the other words of anti- 
quity put together. There is a more 
elevated concept of God found in 
these chapters than was ever at- 
tained by any other people under 
the sun. And if our Christian con- 
ception of God has been deepened, 
it is a conception that rests squarely 
on that of Genesis 1-2. 

Visible Creation 

The first two chapters of Genesis 
concern the creation by God of the 
visible world. 'In the beginning 
God created the heavens and the 
earth." It is the visible world with 
which the author is concerned— 
everything that his readers can see, 
all this is the work of the hands 
of the Almighty. God Himself was 
not created; He already exists when 
creation begins. He creates simply 
by the expression of His will. For 
having once enunciated the general 
fact, the author proceeds to give a 
"breakdown" of the various parts of 
creation, and in each case the man- 
ner of creation is the same: "God 
said, 'Let there be . And it was 

Today we have, through the dis- 
covery of other ancient literatures, 
a better notion of what the author 
of Genesis was trying to achieve in 
his account. While the other ancient 

peoples with whom the Hebrews 
came in contact did not possess 
the knowledge of God's creation 
that the chosen people did, there 
were naturally various attempts to 
explain the existence of the world- 
various "creation" stories. Apparent- 
ly only modern man, who has 
learned so much about the makeup 
of the universe, has no interest in 
where the universe came from. 

Various Gods 

The Babylonians, a people among 
whom the Hebrews spent years of 
exile after the conquest of Juda 
in the early sixth century B.C., had a 
"creation" story which they, in 
turn, had borrowed from another 
people centuries before. It described 
the production of the material 
world through the painful exertions 
of several gods, not creation from 
nothing, but rather a formation 
from previously existing material. 
In this story the stars played an 
important part, as the residence of 
certain of the deities. In certain 
superficial ways, the story resem- 
bles Genesis. 

The author of Genesis could not 
have contrasted the true God of the 
Hebrews more forcibly with the 
gods of the Gentiles than he did 
through his account. In contrast to 
the many gods of the Babylonian 
story is the one supreme God of 
Israel. In contrast to the laborious 
production of the world in the 
Babylonian story, God simply wills, 
and it is. The stars in Genesis are 
demoted to the status of "signs for 
seasons and for days and years." In 
the Babylonian story man had been 
made as a kind of after-thought, 


to serve the gods' convenience. In 
Genesis man is created last of all, 
in the point of the greatest im- 
portance, and made in the image 
and likeness of God. 

These are the basic truths which 
the author of Genesis intended to 
set before his readers. There is one 
God. He is supreme over the uni- 
verse. He made it, all of it. He made 
man in His own image. In fact, the 
world was made for man, in a cer- 
tain sense. Man is the ruler of the 
visible world—it is supposed to 
serve his needs. God has a very 
definite interest in man and in his 
destiny, an interest that is ex- 
pressed not only in the act of 
creation but that will be continually 
exercised throughout history. 

The Biblical author thus told his 
countrymen all that differentiated 
their religion and their God and 
that placed them head and shoul- 
ders above their neighbors. But 
what he wrote was transcendent of 
time— it is as true today, and as 
applicable to our own belief, as it 
was to the time and belief of the 

ancient Hebrews. 

But it must be recognized that 
these truths are set forth by a man 
of the pre-scientific age, writing for 
his contemporaries. His writing in- 
evitably reflects the limitations of 
his time. He writes in a language 
that could be understood— had it 
not been so. Genesis would have 
failed to achieve its object. 

He thought of the earth as a 
flat surface, covered over by what 
he called a firmament, and what 
we call "the sky." For him this 
firmament was a solid half-bowl, 
whose edges touched the corners of 
the earth. We still use his concept 
when we speak of the sky as "the 
celestial sphere." This firmament he 
thought had been raised up by God 
when the "separation of the waters'* 
had taken place in the beginning 
of time. In the beginning, there 
was simply a primordial mass of 
water covering the earth. First God 
separated the waters by this firm- 
ament (Genesis 1:7), then He 
brought the dry land out from the 
expanse of water beneath the firm- 
ament (1:9). This resulted in there 
being waters above the earth, and 
waters below. The waters below 
the earth fed the seas and the 
rivers of the dry land (1:10), while 
the waters above the earth, that is, 
above the solid firmament of the 
sky, were the source of rain (8:2). 
Rain was caused by the opening 
of "windows" in this firmament, 
which allowed the water to pour 

The firmament also served an- 
other purpose. On it were fixed the 
sun, the moon, and the stars, which 
thus moved about to provide light 


and to measure time (l:l4ff.). 

Now all this is a very primitive 
conception of the cosmogony, that 
is, of the makeup of the world. It 
is utterly unreal, unscientific. But 
as we can see, it is based entirely 
on simple superficial observation. 
The earth does look flat, it does 
appear to meet the sky at the hori- 
zon. The sky does seem to be an 
inverted bowl overhead. Against all 
these appearances, only a later, more 
enquiring age, gifted with a gen- 
uine interest in discovering the 
composition of things and a few 
instruments to help it, could give 
an alternative explanation. The ex- 
planation of the rain, the seas, the 
position of the stars, all fits into 
the same picture. It is all based on 
external appearances. 

To the extent that the author 
thought of the world in this way, 
he was of course in error, as we 
know today. He was, however, tell- 
ing the truth as he saw it. These 
conceptions are entirely incidental 
to his story, and he is no more to 

be accused of a misstatement than 
are we when we speak of "the 
celestial sphere'* or "a sunset." Most 
of us who have no special scientific 
training are guilty in our everyday 
speech of just such unscientific 
language as he uses. But we are 
not to be accused of falsehood any 
more than he, for we do not in- 
tend to explain to others how ex- 
actly the order of nature is put 

What Genesis Teaches 

And that is the important point 
to bear in mind. The author of 
Genesis does not teach any of these 
scientific errors— and consequently 
the Bible does not teach them— for 
the makeup of the universe was the 
thing in which he had the least 
interest in his writing. He was 
bound by the limitation of his own 
knowledge of these matters, to be 
sure, but he wrote of these things 
at all only to tell us that God had 
created them. We can be fairly 
sure, knowing as we do the char- 
acter of the Old Testament Jews, 
that he would probably not have 
bothered to write any differently 
even if he had been told that his 
notion of nature was erroneous. He 
was interested in religious truths, 
not natural history. 

Hence we should acknowledge 
that there is no conflict between 
Genesis and science in these mat- 
ters, because they are concerned 
with wholly different fields. Gene- 
sis teaches what science can neither 
prove nor disprove— that God is 
one, that He is the creator of all 
things, that He made the world for 
man's use, and the like. What 


Genesis does not teach, what it has 
no interest in whatever, is the 
province of science— the origin of 
rain, for example, or the sphericity 
of the earth. 

In part, at least, the author of 
Genesis knew that his account was 
not precisely the way things had 
occurred. In part, he used symbolic 
and figurative language, and con- 
sciously so. He could not do other- 
wise. Nobody saw the act of crea- 
tion, nor could anyone describe it in 
human language if he had. If the 
author had had a special revelation 
to enable him to explain things 
scientifically, as they precisely oc- 
curred, his contemporaries surely 
would not have understood him, nor 
would we. 

God Simplified 

Thus, for example, he arbitrarily 
divided the story of creation into 
six days' work. Why did he do this? 
For several reasons. First of all, he 
wished to insist on the holiness of 
the seventh day of rest then ob- 
served by the Jews as the Sabbath. 
So he pictured God as resting on 
the seventh day, to give an example 
to his people. He knew that God 
did not really rest, just as he knew 
that God did not talk and take 
counsel with Himself, that He did 
not walk in a garden in the cool of 
the day (3:8), and so forth. But 
this was a homely, earthy way of 
speaking of God which would ap- 
peal to a simple people. We use 
the same principle when we speak 
of "God's anger" or "wounding 
God" through sin. We call it "an- 
thropomorphism," i.e. "manlikeism." 
Speaking of God in human terms 

sometimes makes Him easier for 
us to understand. 

Again, take a close look at the 
six-day arrangement of Genesis 1. 
It is divided into two parts of 
three days each, and while one 
"work" of God is assigned to the 
first and second, and the fourth and 
fifth days, the third of each section, 
that is, days three and six, each have 
two "works." Further, the "works" 
of the second section correspond to 
those of the first. The fourth day 
corresponds to the first: in the first 
is the "work" of the separation of 
light and darkness, while in the 
fourth is the creation of the celestial 
bodies which regulate light and 

The fifth day corresponds to the 
second: in the second is the sepa- 
ration of the waters, and in the fifth 
is the creation of the denizens of 
the waters and of the air that sepa- 
rates them. The sixth day corres- 
ponds to the third: in the third the 
earth is created, and then plantlife; 
in the sixth, the denizens of the 
earth are created, and then man, 


who is to feed upon the plantlife 
of the earth (1:29). 

This is obviously an artistic and 
an artificial arrangement. Its chief 
function, aside from its poetic 
symmetry, was undoubtedly to serve 
as a memory device. The creation 
story in Genesis had a long history 
of oral transmission before it was 
ever put down in writing, and dur- 
ing this time it depended on the 
memory of man for its preservation. 
Even after it was written, it existed 
in a world that knew few books, all 
of which had to be laboriously cop- 
ied by hand. It was, consequently, 
the practice of ancient writers to 
supply their compositions with 
memory outlines so that the content 
that they had written would be 
accessible to a greater number of 
people who might never actually 
read their book. 

Another possible reason for the 
six-day scheme of Genesis 1:1-2:3 
is that the Babylonian creation epic 
previously mentioned consisted of 
six tablets or divisions. The Biblical 
author who opposed his story to 
the polytheistic myth of the Gen- 
tiles may have had this scheme in 
mind in substituting the far more 
elevated, true account of Genesis. 

From this it is apparent that we 
should beware of the tendency of 
some commentators of the past, 
who thought that the six days of 
creation in Genesis could or should 
be harmonized with our new-found 
scientific knowledge concerning the 
geological ages of the world. In the 
first place, such a harmonization 
simply cannot be made. The scienti- 
fic "ages" do not correspond with 
the Genesis account at all, as can 

be verified from any elementary 
textbook in natural history. 

Neither is the Biblical author 
speaking of any such thing. He 
speaks clearly of "evening and 
morning, one day" (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 
23, 31). Furthermore, there is no 
possible way that he should know 
of any such thing as geological ages, 
short of a special revelation from 
God— and that is not the way the 
book of Genesis was written. 

No 6-Day Task 

His six-day scheme disregards 
the scientifically known origin of 
the universe entirely. It is simply 
an outline, nothing more. Having 
first presented God as Creator, he 
arbitrarily selects the various ele- 
ments of creation and pictures God 
as creating them on separate days, 
without any consideration of a real 
order of time or precedence. Thus 
the scientifically known connection 
between the sun and the light of 
the sun is passed over. The light is 
"separated" from darkness on the 
first day, note, yet the sun is pic- 
tured as being created only on the 
fourth day. In a somewhat similar 
way, the creation of the beasts of 
the sea and the birds are mentioned 
in a single breath, as though they 
were somehow connected. And so 
they were, in the minds of the an- 
cients. The birds, denizens of the 
air, were thought to live in the sea 
—because they flew out to sea and 
disappeared at the horizon, where 
the water was conceived as joining 
the solid firmament. (Incidentally, 
as late as the 18th century, the 
great Linnaeus, one of the fathers 
of modern science, thought that 


birds hibernated in the water.) 

There is, consequently, no con- 
nection between the Genesis view 
of the universe— a religious view- 
taking it simply as an object of 
creation— and the scientific view— 
which goes into its intimate make- 
up. The two do not conflict because 
they do not come together at all, 
and were never intended to do so. 

How little the author of Genesis 
regarded the account in 1:1-2:3 as 
anything more than a symbolic ac- 
count of the actual process through 
which God created the world, can 
be seen from the second account of 
creation which begins in 2:4. Here 
he used another source entirely, a 
parallel story taken from the same 
traditional material he had at his 
disposal. In the original text, the 
style of the two accounts differs in 
several ways. Even in translation the 
difference can be seen in that in 
the first account God is referred to 
simply as "God," while in the sec- 
ond he is consistently called "the 
Lord God." 

In the second account the whole 
story of creation is retold in a dif- 
ferent way. Here there is question 
of only "one day" (2:4). There is 
no primordial chaos of water which 
is separated, but rather the earth is 
pictured as entirely without rain 
and plantlife. Then a mist appears 
to water the face of the earth 
(2:6), and without further ado the 
story tells of the creation of man. 

The reason the author of Genesis 
added this second story of creation 
is the conclusion which follows, the 
account of the temptation and fall, 
an item of revelation which was the 
all-important aspect of this creation 

story which is wholly concerned 
with man. Both these creation ac- 
counts contained important religi- 
ous teachings, and thus both were 
included. But they conflict in non- 
essential, symbolic details. The fact 
that the author left the conflicts as 
they were, shows us how little ac- 
count he took of them, and how 
little was his intention to teach 
anything one way or the other con- 
cerning them. 

Details Unimportant 

Thus while in the first account 
the creation of both men and wom- 
en had already been described as 
occurring on the "sixth day," in the 
second, after a very "anthropomor- 
phic" description of the creation of 
the first man, pictured as first be- 
ing modelled out of clay and then 
infused with breath from God's 
nostrils (2:7), only much later on 
occurs an equally anthropomorphic 
description of the creation of wom- 
an (2:21ff.). 

The teachings which the author 
intends to transmit in these symbol- 
isms we shall examine in the next 
article. The position of man in the 
religious thought of Genesis is so 
important, this will be considered 
in an article by itself. We mention 
these facts at the present simply to 
show that the two creation stories 
in Genesis 1-2 are considerably dif- 
ferent in their outlook, when it is a 
question of precisely those matters 
which are of no interest to the 
author, namely the material makeup 
of the elements of nature. That he 
could combine sources which re- 
sulted in such a conflict of details 
—of which he was quite as con- 


scious as we— is one way he had of 
telling us how little these details 
meant to him. 

We can conclude, therefore, firm 
in the conviction that the presenta- 
tion in Genesis of God the Creator, 
should cause no difficulty for either 
a believer or a non-believer in the 
Bible as Gods word. The valid 
scientific conclusions concerning the 
process by which the world was 
gradually educed into its present 
existence, the many modifications 
that took place in the workings of 
nature, the composition of matter 
and its relation to energy— all these 
and countless other questions like 
them, such as the age of the visible 
world, may be readily accepted by 
the person who accepts Genesis 1-2. 
There is no conflict between them. 
Neither should there be any valid 
reason, on the basis of any scienti- 
fically known fact, for anyone to 
dismiss the story in Genesis as be- 
neath his notice. For Genesis is 
speaking of things entirely differ- 

That God is the origin of all 
that we see in the world, that He 
brought all things about by the act 
of His will— whether in an instant, 
or through a process of millions of 
years, is immaterial — cannot be 
known through natural science. It 

is Gods revelation, enshrined in 
His word made known to men, that 
must tell us this. The man who 
knows, as he thinks, all about the 
workings of nature, but who knows 
not of the working of nature's 
Author, has really a very superficial 
notion of the universe. 

No Contradictions 

Religion and science thus com- 
plement each other. Without one 
or the other man is somehow in- 
complete. One does not substitute 
for the other. Together they give 
us a knowledge that is complete, 
each in its own field. How incom- 
plete is this knowledge we have, 
and how dangerous, without the 
guidance of religion, we are be- 
ginning to suspect today, when man 
has the greatest control in his his- 
tory of the forces of nature, without 
a reasoned knowledge of their pur- 
pose. The man who wrote the first 
chapters of Genesis did not know 
very much about the workings of 
these forces, but he expressed a 
wisdom unknown to many of those 
today who have this knowledge, 
when he voiced a truth which has 
never before or after been put so 
eloquently or so completely. 

*ln the beginning God created 
the heavens and the earth . . 


"Male and Female He Created Them..." 

Saint Augustine once said 
that of all the wonderful 
things man sees in the world, 
none is quite so wonderful 
as man himself. 

This is a statement with 
which few would disagree. 
Certainly in agreement 
would be those for whom 
the chief glory of this pres- 
ent age is its preoccupation 
with natural science, for this pre- 
occupation with science has resulted 
in our time's being extremely man- 
centered in its interests. 

The ever-fascinating study of 
man within the past century and 
more has brought us to a stage 
where we now possess a degree of 
knowledge that would have ap- 
peared fantastic to our not too 
remote ancestors. While all respon- 
sible scientists will admit that there 
are enormous gaps in this knowl- 
edge, some of which may never be 
filled in, the overall view is in 
general satisfying and complete. 

There is, first of all, a general 
agreement among scientists con- 
cerning the fact of biological 
evolution, despite the disputes that 
rage about the precise ways in 
which this evolution may have 
taken place. It is accepted that man 

as we know him is the prod- 
duct of a long process of 
development that began ages 
ago in a lower form of ani- 
mal life. This development 
—again with wide gaps in 
the process — can be traced 
through some of its stages 
in the case of man. The 
evolutionary process at work 
in other forms of life can 
be seen even more clearly. 

Another fact concerning which 
science is in fair agreement is the 
great age of mankind. To be sure, 
this age is small when compared 
with the age of the world, which 
is reckoned in the millions of years, 
but it is enormous when compared 
with the recorded history of man, 
which is but a few thousand years. 
Estimates on the age of true man- 
that is, man as we know him today 
—vary considerably, but some go as 
far back as a half million years. 

Science distinguishes between 
true man, homo sapiens as he is 
called, and the other "men** who 
preceded him in the evolutionary 
scale, some of whose fossil remains 
we have. These earlier "men" do 
not fall within the scientific classifi- 
cation of man for various structural 
reasons, but they were certainly not 


mere animals, for they show the 
use of reason in the activities that 
they evidently carried out. 

To a certain extent, through the 
sciences which are concerned with 
the study of ancient man, we can 
trace the evolution of culture or 
civilization undergone by our primi- 
tive ancestors. At the dawn of his 
existence, as far as the researches of 
these sciences can tell us, man lived 
in caves or other natural dwelling 
places, and gathered his food as 
best he could from wild plantlife 
and the beasts he was able to kill. 
Eventually, through long trial and 
error, he perfected his weapons and 
his tools, he began to cultivate the 
ground and to build houses for him- 
self, and the long trek of material 
progress was begun whose end is 
not yet. 

Finally, science distinguishes the 
different kinds of men, who differ, 
sometimes pronouncedly, by color 
and other racial characteristics. 

Order of Creation 

It is quite evident that this por- 
trayal of man differs rather radi- 
cally from that of the first chapters 
of Genesis. 

Genesis tells us simply that man 
was created by God. The descent of 
the entire human race is traced 
from one man and one woman, our 
first parents, who are given proper 
names, Adam and Eve, which mean 
in Hebrew, respectively, "Man" and 
probably, "Living One." 

There is nothing in Genesis 
about an evolution of man from a 
lower form of life. In the first ac- 
count of creation, it is true, man 
and woman are pictured as being 

created at the end of the process, 
after the other animals. But in the 
second account, man is created first 
(2:7), then plantlife (2:9), then 
the animals (2:19), and finally 
woman (2:22). The author in each 
instance was evidently thinking 
only in terms of direct creation by 

Adam and Eve 

The Biblical account knows of 
no process through which man 
gradually evolved a culture. Adam 
and Eve and their immediate de- 
scendants are indistinguishable, as 
men and women, from the men and 
women whom the Biblical author 
knew. While he was aware that 
there had elapsed some considerable 
time between the beginning of man 
and the call of Abraham by God, 
which to him was the first sig- 
nificant fact in historical times, he 
certainly had no idea that such a 
time had elapsed as we know today. 
In chapters 5 and 11 of Genesis 
genealogies are given to calculate 
this age. We shall speak of these 
later. At the present we need note 
only that in chapter 5 Genesis 
calculates about a thousand years 
from the time of Adam to that of 
Noah. Noah's sons follow five hun- 
dred years later (5:32). Then, in 
ll:10ff., is traced the descent of 
Sem, the son of Noah and remote 
ancestor of the Hebrews ("Sem- 
ites"), giving a period of nearly 
500 years to the birth of Abraham. 
Thus the author of Genesis thought 
in terms of about 2000 years from 
the creation of man to the time of 

One may be tempted to say that 


it would be hard to imagine a wider 
contradiction between two views 
than those of the author of Genesis 
and modern science concerning the 
history of man. 

And nobody will be disposed to 
deny this. But between the teaching 
of the Bible on man and the find- 
ings of science, there is no contra- 
diction whatever. 

Man Is Different 

First of all, what does Genesis 
teach concerning man? 

1) The first creation account 
teaches that man was created by 

2) He was created to rule over 
the visible world. That is, the rest 
of the world was created for the 
service of mankind. 

3 ) He was created "in the image 
and likeness of God" (l:26ff.). 
This means that man differs sub- 
stantially from the other animals, 
that he stands in a relationship to 
God that is not shared by other 
visible creatures. This can only im- 
ply the spiritual faculties of intellect 
and will that are not possessed by 
the beasts. From this fact results 
also men's special state of friend- 
ship with God which is presup- 
posed in the Biblical account. 

4) From the second creation ac- 
count, the special dignity of man 
is more apparent, in that his crea- 
tion is described in such detail, and 
made so different from the rest of 
the creation account. If, like the 
rest of the animals, man is made 
of the "dust of the ground" (2:7), 
he lives with a life that has come 
only through God s special inter- 

vention. In this account even more 
than in the first is it evident that 
the world has been made for men's 

5) The special relationship and 
affinity between man and woman is 
stressed in this account. Woman is 
pictured symbolically as made from 
man's own flesh and bone— in no 
better way could the Biblical au- 
thor have combatted the ancient 
errors of some peoples who were 
inclined to regard woman as an 
inferior kind of creation. It is from 
this fact, of the natural affinity of 
man and woman, their "one flesh," 
that the author sees the basis of the 
unity and indissolubility of mar- 
riage (2:24), as also did Christ 
centuries later (Matthew 19: 5f.). 

6) Why man was created, and 
the special state in which he was 
constituted over and above the fact 
of creation, are also told us by 
Genesis. These religious truths will 
be examined in the next article. For 
the present, we are concerned sim- 
ply with man's natural state and 
primitive existence as detailed by 
the Biblical author. 

Now in what way are any of the 


above facts contradicted by any 
truly scientific conclusion? 

First, as regards the fact of 
creation. Science does not, and can- 
not contradict the religious teaching 
that man is the object of God's 
creation. We have in the preceding 
article discussed the Biblical doc- 
trine of creation, and with what 
purpose the author of Genesis la- 
bored in his presentation of this 
idea. If anything, science has sup- 
ported this teaching, at least nega- 
tively. No scientist has ever been 
able to produce living matter from 
non-living. That such a thing should 
come to pass by purely natural 
causality is, in fact, scientifically 
unsound. Science in its probings 
insists on the principle which it 
calls "adequate causality." From 
nothing, you do not get something, 
for from nothing only nothing can 
come. Life is that "something" that 
cannot come from the nothing of 
nonexistence. For life to exist, it 
is necessary that the Author of 
nature intervene to cause it. 

Life Is from God 

It is true, the author of Genesis 
undoubtedly thought of the begin- 
ning of man as a direct act of God's 
creation. He had no notion that 
this creation might have taken place 
through a gradual evolutionary 
process, from lower forms of ani- 
mal life. But even if he had, he 
would not have been disturbed in 
the least. He would have known, in 
any case, that the original spark of 
life from which man eventually 
sprang did not cause itself. God's 
creation is not minimized simply 
by the fact that it may have in- 

volved a number of steps instead of 
only one. 

Consequently we can today ac- 
cept what the author of Genesis 
v/rote, and accept at the same time 
the theory of evolution, provided 
it is accepted precisely for what it 
is, a scientific theory. We can ac- 
cept it if it is truly scientific, that 
is, based on the observation of the 
physical development of man. It 
does not explain the special char- 
acteristic of man, his intellectual 
soul, that makes him radically dif- 
ferent from all other animals. Nor 
does any responsible man of science 
claim that it does. "We are driven 
to the conclusion," writes one 
scientist, "that in his large and 
well-developed brain (man) pos- 
sesses an organ quite disproportion- 
ate to his actual requirements— an 
organ that seems prepared in ad- 
vance only to be fully utilized as 
he progresses in civilization . . . The 
brain of prehistoric and of savage 
man seems to me to prove the 
existence of some power distinct 
from that which has guided the 
lower animals." (Wallace cf. Scien- 
tific American Dec. '53). 

Evolution ? 

There was therefore certainly a 
special intervention of God re- 
quired to explain the existence of 
man. Blind evolution alone would 
not and could not explain it. But 
the believer in God's creation can 
hold, if he wishes, that this creation 
could have been worked through an 
evolutionary process. 

As stated, and as is apparent, the 
Biblical author did not believe, and 
could not have believed in an 


evolutionism of which he had never 
heard. But we are not obliged to 
restrict our scientific horizons to 
those which he possessed. We can 
be fairly sure that he did not be- 
lieve that man had been created 
literally as he describes it in the 
second creation account, as some- 
thing first modelled in clay and 
then blown upon by God. Neither 
did he believe that woman was 
really made from one of man s ribs. 
He knew that there was a vast 
difference between the earth and 
man's body. But the truths that he 
symbolized in this account he be- 
lieved in firmly — that man — male 
and female— is the product of God's 
special creative act, dependent upon 
Him for both his body and the 
soul that animates it. If we can 
today improve upon his description 
of how this creation took place, we 
have not been able to improve upon 
the religious truths that underlie 
the description. 

Not Natural History 

Once we remind ourselves, as 
again we must, that the first chap- 
ters of Genesis were written to 
establish religious truths, not to 
dabble in natural history or pre- 
history, we are on the road to 
their proper interpretation. Genesis 
neither proves nor disproves the 
theory of evolution. It simply does 
not consider it at all. 

Neither does science prove or 
disprove the religious doctrines 
taught by Genesis. These do not 
pertain to the scope of positive 
science. What has science to say 
about the purpose of man's crea- 
tion? Science does not rule out the 

descent of all men from an original 
pair of parents as pre-supposed by 
Genesis as the basis of the religious 
teaching contained in the doctrine 
of the fall of man. This will be 
considered in the next article. The 
scientific distinctions regarding dif- 
ferent classes and kinds of men, 
homo sapiens and his predecessors, 
the various races, and the like, have 
nothing to do with this Biblical 
teaching. The Bible holds that all 
men, in the one thing that makes 
them men, their essential human 
nature, are one. This is not con- 
tradicted by science. The scientific 
distinctions, important to science, 
have no relevance in religion, and 
are, in fact, dismissed by the author 
of Genesis as of no consequence. 

How Old Is Man? 

The Biblical author was, as we 
have noted, ignorant of the age of 
mankind in the world. As a matter 
of fact, so are we, though we are 
undoubtedly closer to the mark 
than he was. He did know that a 
considerable time had intervened 
between man's beginning and the 
commencement of historical times. 
In chapters 5 and 11 of Genesis he 
undertook to indicate this lapse of 
time by the genealogies which he 
inserted there, drawn from tradi- 
tional source material. 

The "literary form" of these 
genealogies must be carefully con- 
sidered, in the manner that we have 
previously indicated with regard to 
other literary forms. In other words, 
we must understand correctly just 
what the author was trying to teach 
by employing these traditional 
sources. Only in this way can we 


interpret rightly the teaching of 

First of all, we must note that— 
for a religious purpose that we 
shall consider in a later article— 
the author divided the pre-history 
of man into two unequal periods, 
the period from Adam to the Flood, 
and the period from the Flood to 
Abraham. It was to summarize the 
time that elapsed during these pe- 
riods that he used these genealo- 

Nothing Exact 

The genealogies themselves were, 
of course, incomplete. In our sense 
of the word they are not even 
scientific genealogies at all, but 
vague gestures towards indicating 
some of the mighty men of the past 
who were traditionally associated 
with the age in question. The quite 
artificial character of these genealo- 
gies can be seen in the fact that 
both of them, the one in chapter 5 
and the other in llilOff., consist 
of exactly ten generations each, 
counting from first to last. 

To indicate the passage of time 
which was known to be much 
longer than the few generations in 
question, the ages of the individuals 
whose names were included were 
simply magnified. This was a rec- 
ognized literary device of the time, 
not intended to be taken literally. 
We have other examples in the 
dynastic lists kept by the Baby- 
lonians, where the ages involved 
proceed into astronomical figures, 
reckoned in the thousands instead 
of the comparatively modest hun- 
dreds of Genesis. 

This conventional practice ac- 

counts for the extremely unreal ages 
associated with the men in the 
name lists of Genesis 5 and 11: lOff. 
The author of Genesis was not in- 
tending to tell us, for example, that 
Methuselah really lived to be nine 
hundred and sixty-nine years old. 
He no more knew how old Methu- 
selah lived to be than do we. He 
simply used Methuselah's name to 
help him bridge over the gap be- 
tween the time of creation and the 
time of Noah, and to tell us that a 
great time elapsed therein. His con- 
temporaries would have understood 
this. Later on, people forgot that 
men once wrote in this way— which 
is surely not the way we write— but 
nowadays we are discovering the 
fact once more, and thus learning 
anew how Genesis should be inter- 

Bible Not Scientific 

The author had another purpose 
to serve, in the numbers that he 
selected to use in this fashion, 
which coincided with his religious 
purpose in writing. This purpose 
we shall note in our next article. 

What we have shown here is 
that there is no conflict between 
Genesis, which artificially calcu- 
lates the age of man from creation 
to Abraham as roughly 2000 years, 
and the scientific knowledge that 
tells us of the lapse of many more 
thousands of years. They are not 
speaking the same language, and 
not talking about the same thing. 
Science is interested in discovering 
factually how long man has been 
on the earth, and its estimates are 
directed towards this end. The au- 
thor of Genesis merely wanted to 


say that a certain amount of time 
intervened, and he chose a recog- 
nized conventional device to indi- 
cate this. How long man had really 
been on the earth he neither knew 
nor, in all likelihood, did he care 
a great deal. 

The best way to see how utterly 
uninterested Genesis is in scientific 
genealogy, or in science at all, can 
be seen from the use made of a 
somewhat similar genealogy in 
chapter 10, this time of the sons of 

Having divided the prehistorical 
period into the two periods divided 
by the Flood, the author is anxious 
to underline the fact that even after 
the Flood, when the world under- 
went, as it were, a second creation, 
all mankind was still one. He did 
this, not unnaturally, by means of 
a genealogy, deriving the peoples of 
the then known world from one or 
another of the three sons of Noah. 

On the face of it, the genealogy 
is wholly artificial. Most of the 
"names" in it are those of cities or 
countries, rather than of men. It is 
wholly unscientific, in that the ac- 
tual bases of distinction between 
various peoples are totally disre- 
garded, and the distinctions are 
made along geographical, partly 
political, and above all, religious 

Thus the more remote Gentile 
peoples whom the Hebrews knew 
very little, if at all, are derived 
from Noah s son Japheth. 
these are "Medai" (the Medes) and 
"Javan" (Greece), and later, "Tar- 
shish" (Tartessus in Spain) and 
"Kittim" (Cyprus). There are, it 
is true, some historical and racial 

ties between some of these people, 
but that is not what the author of 
Genesis had in mind in deriving 
them from a common ancestor. 
These were the "good" Gentiles, 
against whom the Jews had no 
quarrel. They were thus the des- 
scendants of Japheth, who, it had 
been prophesied (9:27), would 
share in the good things of the chil- 
dren of Israel. 

On the other hand, the traditional 
enemies of the Jews, their oppres- 
sors and persecutors, are classed 
among the sons of Ham, the son of 
Noah cursed by his father. Among 
these are Egypt and Canaan. Ac- 
tually, by race the Canaanites were 
not a single people, and in any 
case were for the most part more 
closely related to the Hebrews than 
to the Egyptians. But the purpose 
of Genesis is to teach religion, not 
genetics. In the same way, there- 
fore, from Sem, the son blessed by 
his father, are derived the Israelites 
and their acknowledged relatives. 

From what we have said by now, 
we should have no difficulty in 


reconciling the picture of man- 
kinds civilization as related in 
Genesis with the painful evolution 
hinted at by science. The Biblical 
author knew little about the origins 
of material culture, or the processes 
by which it had been achieved. He 
had certain traditions preserved 
among the source material that he 
used— for example, the beginning of 
hunting is ascribed in 10: 8f. to a 
certain Nimrod (whose name has 
also been preserved by other peo- 
ples of the Middle East), and the 
making of musical instruments was 
attributed to a descendant of Cain 
named Jubal (4:21). To some ex- 
tent these traditions may represent 
factual associations— they are hand- 
ed on by the author of Genesis 
without comment— and to some ex- 
tent they may be simply a play on 
words (as the Hebrew job el means 
"trumpet"). Though there is, in 
this limited way, some small inter- 
est taken in these matters, it is plain 
that for the most part Genesis is 
not concerned with the question. 

Purpose of Scriptures 

The Bible is not designed to 
trace man s cultural development, 
but to tell us of his origin from 
God, his purpose in the world, and 
other religious truths concerning 
him. Hence the Bible does not tell 
us, one way or the other, about his 
development of language and the 
arts, crafts, and sciences. The pic- 
ture in the second account of crea- 
tion, 2:19f., of the animals passing 
in procession before men to receive 

their names is a symbol of what is 
stated by God in the first account, 
l:29f., regarding mans dominance 
over the earth. In ancient times 
"naming" was a sign of ownership. 

The scientific study of mans 
origins, therefore, and the religious 
study found in Genesis are separate 
and distinct. They rarely overlap. 
Where they do briefly and super- 
ficially coincide, there is no conflict 
between them, but rather the closest 
harmony. Where they go their sepa- 
rate ways, each has important things 
to tell us to make our understanding 
complete and integral. 

Gift of Knowledge 

We can be grateful for the fact 
that today we stand at the end of 
a long chain of human knowledge 
—itself God's gift— that has bit by 
bit pieced together the evidence 
from the past to put together an 
understanding of man which would 
have been beyond the wildest 
dreams of our earlier ancestor who 
wrote the first chapters of Genesis. 
Our later descendants, building on 
the same foundations, will, we may 
well believe, possess a knowledge 
that will pale our own into insig- 
nificance. But all of us together 
will continue to stand before the 
book of Genesis in the sober reali- 
zation that what has been written 
there has been written for all time. 
It is what our scientific investiga- 
tions could never have made known 
to us. It is what our scientific in- 
vestigations will never remove, and 
never replace. 


The lord $oi--- 

fut Mm In lUc iardcn 

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# V ♦ # ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ • ♦ ♦ V ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

The late Gilbert K. Chester- 
ton described his conversion 
to Catholicism as the end of 
a series of quests. One of 
the quests he had pursued 
was the solution to the 
problem of man— the single 
creature who is capable of 
such good and such evil. It 
is a problem, incidentally, 
that runs like a thread 
through the literature of classical 
antiquity — and it is a problem 
whose solution was never quite 

The problem of man, his good- 
ness and his evil, the reconciliation 
of the two and their explanation- 
such is the problem to which 
Chesterton found the answer in the 
Christian doctrine of original sin. 
This is the answer for which the 
ancient Greeks sought in vain. It 
is an answer to be found only in 
God's relevation. It is an answer 
found, at least partially, in the third 
chapter of Genesis. 

It is this teaching that explains 
the fact that the author of Genesis 
has included the second account of 
creation in his narrative, for it is 
the climax of this second account. 

Now there is no possible conflict 
between this story and the discover- 

► ♦.♦ ♦> 

ies about man which we 
know through the findings 
of positive science. This 
story deals with matters 
with which science has no 
concern whatever, about 
which it can say nothing 
pro or contra. 

Because of the extreme 
importance which this story 
has in the development of 
the first chapters of Genesis, how- 
ever, it is vital that we should 
understand its teachings correctly. 
And to understand it, it is again 
assential that we keep in mind the 
religious purpose of Genesis and 
keep distinct the meaning of the 
author from the literary forms 
which he used— forms which are 
not usual with us, and which, un- 
less we are on our guard, can lead 
us astray down paths which the 
author never intended that we 
should follow. 

After briefly describing the crea- 
tion of the world and of man in 
2:4-7, the author proceeds to tell 
us that ''the Lord God planted a 
garden in Eden, in the east, and 
there he put the man whom he had 

The rather curious geography 
that follows in the text describing 


the location of Eden suggests to us 
that the author was not too much 
concerned with the garden as a 
garden, but rather with what the 
garden symbolized to him and to 
his readers. It likewise suggests that 
some of the commentators of the 
past were probably off on a fruit- 
less journey when they attempted 
to localize the garden for the better 
understanding of the sacred text. 

In 2:10-14 four rivers are de- 
scribed as working their way out of 
Eden, one of which, the last, is 
certainly identifiable, the River 
Euphrates of Mesopotamia, still 
known by that name today. This 
is truly a river "in the east." So is 
the third river mentioned by the 
author, called by him in Hebrew 
Hiddekel, an ancient name for the 
Tigris, the other great river of 
Mesopotamia. But the other two 
rivers, unknown in themselves, are 
located by the author not in Meso- 
potamia, but at extraordinary dis- 
tances away. One is in the land of 
Havilah, which was most probably 
Arabia, and the other "around the 
whole land of Cush." Cush was the 

country to the south of Egypt, 
therefore west and south, not east. 
Needless to say, these rivers could 
not flow from a single source. 

While it is true that the primi- 
tive notions of geographical exact- 
ness are not always satisfactory to 
our tastes, it seems to be more than 
likely that the author is not in- 
tending to localize Eden at all, but 
rather to speak of it symbolically. 
"Eden" itself is not a Hebrew word. 
It is a name older than the Bible, a 
sort of word that may have signi- 
fied to the author what "Utopia" 
or "Erewhon" would mean to a 
later writer. "The east" was to the 
ancients, as to us, the remote land, 
the land of mystery. And abundant 
waters— particularly such waters as 
that of the Euphrates, which was 
''the great river" to the Israelites- 
were symbolic of great blessing and 
happiness to the people of water- 
shy Palestine. When the prophets 
of Israel predicted the coming of 
the great Messiah and King, one of 
the symbols they used to express the 
blessing that would attend his com- 
ing was that of abundant water. 

Garden of Eden 

Whether or not the author of 
Genesis intended to localize the 
scene of the story he is about to tell 
—and the point is of minor impor- 
tance — it is certain that Eden's 
symbolic significance is much more 
important. It is significant not as a 
particular place on the earth, but 
as the condition in which man was 
placed by God over and above His 

For what is noteworthy in this 
description is that "the Lord God 


took the man and put him in the 
garden of Eden" (2:15). What 
Adam is to experience as an in- 
habitant of the garden is, in other 
words, something that is to be his 
lot quite independent of his created 
natural state. 

And what is the life of the 
garden? First, it contained "every 
tree that is pleasant to the sight 
and good for food, the tree of life 
also in the midst of the garden, and 
the tree of the knowledge of good 
and evil" (2:8). God's command 
to man in placing him in this 
garden was, "You may freely eat of 
every tree of the garden; but of the 
tree of the knowledge of good and 
evil you shall not eat, for in the 
day that you shall eat of it you 
shall die" (2:l6f.). 

The symbolism "eating of the 
fruit of a tree" to mean "participat- 
ing in something" was widespread 
in ancient literature. The "tree of 
life" figures in Babylonian and 
Assyrian mythology with the same 
meaning that it has here. The 
Biblical author uses it as a poetic 
image, much as we might speak of 
"the fountain of youth," to mean 
that in the state in which God 
placed man after his creation, he 
had the gift of immortality. 

Free Will 

Man had other gifts as well in 
this supernatural state. As we learn 
later, "the man and his wife were 
both naked, and were not ashamed" 
(2:25). There was no condition of 
concupiscence, no disorganization 
by which man's higher faculties of 
intellect and will could be swept 
along and overpowered by his 

lower bodily appetites. Man was in 
perfect control of himself. 

Above all, the picture that the 
author draws throughout chapters 2 
and 3 is to show a perfect state of 
intimacy and friendship between 
God and man. After man has for- 
feited this friendship and has lost 
his right to the special state to 
which God had raised him, signi- 
ficantly enough man hides himself 
from God's presence (3:8). 


This elevated state of man, 
therefore, which the author has 
described under the imagery of the 
garden and its trees, was to be 
preserved or lost in a manner which 
he describes in equally symbolic 
terms: "In the day that you eat of 
the tree of the knowledge of good 
and evil you shall die." 

This means, simply, "In the day 
that you sin, you shall die." The 
"knowledge" that is spoken of is 
not an intellectual knowledge, but 
the knowledge of experience. This 
is the customary way in which the 
Hebrews used the word, as when 
they referred to a man's "knowing" 
his wife (as in 4:1), they meant 
sexual experience. The experience 
of "good and evil," therefore, was 
the condition upon which depended 
man's continued state in the special 
prerogatives that he had received. 

"Good and evil" does not mean 
good or evil, but good-and-evil as a 
single unity. The Hebrews used 
such an expression to refer to the 
moral judgment by which good and 
evil were determined, just as they 
spoke of binding-and-loosing to re- 
fer to the sentence by which judicial 


decisions were imposed, or enter- 
ing-and-leaving, going-and-coming, 
and the like, to refer to a man's 
movements in general. It is the 
context in every case that deter- 
mines what precisely is involved, 
good or evil, binding or loosing, 
entering or leaving, going or com- 
ing. Here it is obviously a question 
of the experience of evil. 

Man was, consequently, forbid- 
den the experience of moral evil, 
what we call more simply, ''sin." 
Philosophers will tell us, this pro- 
hibition imposed by God as the 
condition of man s permanence in 
his elevated state was not simply 
negative. To avoid sin, one must 
practice good. 

The '^Serpent" 

That man failed the test, is the 
well known sequel of the story in 
chapter 3. The author tells us that 
temptation was presented to our 
first parents by one whom he calls 
"the serpent." Jewish and Christian 
tradition has always interpreted 
this as a symbol of Satan, and 
rightly so, as the story in Genesis 
itself makes clear. The "serpent" 
throughout is treated as an intellec- 
tual being with craft and cunning. 
The reason the author chose a 
serpent as his symbol may very well 
have been the fact that the Gentiles 
of Canaan and the Middle East in 
general were given at this time to 
the worship of various serpent-gods. 
This was one way Genesis had of 
showing its contempt of this prac- 

Actually the author of Genesis 
has written a much subtler com- 
mentary on the wiles of Satan than 

he is generally given credit for. In 
other words, he certainly had a keen 
awareness of the superhuman in- 
tellectual character of Satan — the 
traditional enemy of mankind. His 
idea of the psychological nature of 
temptation is quite exact. 

Thus Satan is pictured as first 
distorting the divine condition of 
permanence in the garden: "Did 
God say, 'You shall not eat of any 
tree of the garden?" (3:1). This 
is his insinuation to the woman, 
who is able to resist by correctly 
restating the divine command in 
3:2f. "We may eat of the fruit of 
the trees of the garden; but God 
said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit 
of the tree which is in the midst 
of the garden, neither shall you 
touch it, lest you die.' " Against his 
further onslaught, however, she is 
no match, as he lyingly tells her 
what will be the consequences of 
disobedience of the divine com- 
mand (3:4f.). "You will not die. 
For God knows that when you eat 
of it your eyes will be opened, and 
you will be like God, knowing 
good and evil." The temptation is 
attractive, she succumbs, and with 
her, her husband. 

Man's First Sin 

What was the sin committed by 
our first parents, hidden behind the 
imagery of this story? We do not 
know, nor, in all likelihood, did the 
author of the story. Of one thing 
we can be sure, this sin did not 
consist in their use of their sex 
faculties. This interpretation, still 
made by some, shows a curious 
notion of the meaning of sex and 
marriage. The author of Genesis 


had already included in his first 
creation account God's blessing on 
the human race, with the injunction 
that it was to be fruitful and multi- 
ply ( 1 : 28) , and the second account, 
of which this present story is part, 
has already spoken of marriage as 
of divine institution, rooted in the 
very nature of man and woman 

Whatever the nature of this 
original sin, it was disastrous in its 
results. First of all, the state of 
happy intimacy between God and 
man was destroyed ( 3 : 8f f . ) . Again, 
the story shows a perceptive appre- 
ciation of the meaning of the state 
of sin, by describing man's reaction 
in this manner. Inevitably, too, 
man's primitive innocence was now 
a thing of the past, and his lower 
nature was no longer under perfect 
control, as we all know to our 
sorrow (3:7, 10). 

The further consequences of this 
state are made clear in the judgment 
of God, expressed in 3:l4ff. Pain 
and suffering from a now disor- 
dered nature (3:16), a life in 
which the struggle for existence will 
substitute for the ideal harmony 
originally planned (3:17ff.), and 
death (3:19), follow in the wake 
of sin, as its consequences and as 
perpetual reminders of its presence 
in the world. 

The concluding verses of the 
story are only summing up of this 
new state of man, the state in which 
man lived when the author of 
Genesis wrote. He presents God as 
saying, ironically, ''Behold, the man 
has become like one of us, knowing 
good and evil!" Was not this what 
Satan had falsely promised? It had 

not, of course, come to pass. Hence, 
God continues, in the same ironic 
vein: "Lest he put forth his hand 
and take also of the tree of life, 
and eat, and live forever . . ." The 
consequence of man's disobedience, 
by which he had thought to be like 
God, is his exclusion from the state 
of blessedness to which God had 
raised him. To emphasize the final- 
ity of this exclusion, the author 
concludes, "He drove out the man, 
and at the east of (or, "before") 
the garden of Eden he placed the 
cherubim, and a flaming sword 
which turned every way, to guard 
the way to the tree of life." 

The "cherubim," incidentally, in 
this story are not the little winged 
cupids that fill the canvases of the 
Renaissance painters. Neither are 
they angels, as the word came to be 
used later on. The writer was 
thinking of the winged bulls and 
lions with which he was familiar 
from Assyrian and Babylonian mon- 
uments, and which we find in 
profusion in our museums today. 
These were called "cherubim." They 
were quite mythical creatures, of 


course, and this should be another 
indication to us how we are not 
to be misled by the letter of this 
story to overlook the religious and 
historically factual truth that it 

Only One God 

Before we leave the story, it 
might be well to note another ex- 
pression used by the author which 
sometimes causes difficulty. To 
whom does God refer when He 
says that Adam "has become like 
one of us''? As we should remem- 
ber, the author pictured God as 
speaking in the same way in the 
first creation account, when he said 
(1:26), "Let us make man in our 
image." Certainly, there is no pos- 
sible doubt that the author knows 
that God is one. Neither is this 
language an indication that the 
sources which he used were origi- 
nally polytheistic, though, as we 
have noted, there were somewhat 
similar stories found among pagan 
peoples. Many commentators think 
this language is simply rhetorical, 
like our "editorial we," or the man- 
ner in which a single person can 
say, "let us see." It is more likely, 
however, that the author considers 
God in these instances to be taking 
counsel with the angelic court. This 
same idea, purely a figure of speech, 
occurs in Job 1:6 and elsewhere in 
the Bible. 

Thus, in the guise of a traditional 
creation story which had borrowed 
many of the expressions and figures 
of contemporary literature, the au- 
thor of Genesis expressed to his 
readers the revealed knowledge 
treasured in the reHgion of Israel 

that explained the mystery of man. 
Man, created to the image and 
likeness of God, elevated by God to 
a destiny over and above his natural 
deserts, man capable of the greatest 
good and the most exalted yearn- 
ings, is at the same time a sinful 
creature, living in a world which 
bespeaks his opposition to God. 
This evil and good that is man is 
the mystery whose key is the doc- 
trine of original sin. It was this 
doctrine, as we have explained be- 
fore, which solved the problem 
which Chesterton had formed from 
his observation and reflection on 

Mystery of Man 

If Genesis had done nothing 
more than this, it would have pre- 
served a greater wisdom than is to 
be found in any of the other litera- 
ture of antiquity. While there are 
faint allusions to this great truth 
to be found in the literatures of 
other peoples— enough to show that 
the revelation which was preserved 
pure by the Israelites had once 
been a heritage of others as well- 
there is no such clearly defined 
teaching to be found anywhere but 
in Genesis. The Greeks, for one, 
had a tradition of a "golden age" 
when things had not been as they 
now were on the earth. But the 
great spiritual truth that underlay 
this glimmer of ancient knowledge 
was entirely unknown to them. 
Genesis alone was the recipient of 
the integral revelation. 

But Genesis did more. The revel- 
ation was not merely to explain, it 
was to give hope. It was not only 
to tell how man had come to be 


in his sinful state, but to point to 
an eventual Redemption. 

This Redemption is to be found 
prophesied in 3:l4f., the words of 
God to the serpent. First, there is 
a condemnation, expressed in terms 
applicable to the symbol chosen by 
the author. In this he undoubtedly 
intended a play on words. "Dust 
you shall eat all the days of your 
life," literally a reference to the 
slithering motion of the serpent, 
was likewise a Hebrew idiom. "To 
eat dust" meant "to stand con- 
demned," "to be destroyed," much 
like our familiar idiom borrowed 
from the American Indians, "to 
bite the dust." 

More important than this simple 
condemnation of Satan, however, are 
the consequences that it will have 
for man. God says, 

"I will put enmity between you 
and the woman, 
and between your seed and 
her seed; 
He shall bruise your head, 
and you shall bruise his 

This enmity is not a natural re- 
pugnance, not something which is 
natural at all, but a moral opposi- 
tion put there by God— it means an 
enmity that exists by God's decree, 
depending from his condemnation 
of the serpent. It means, in other 
words, that man, who succumbed 
to the power of Satan through his 
sin, has from God's words assurance 
that his slavery will not be forever. 
It is assurance that the power of 
Satan will be resisted. It will be 
resisted continually— as it exists be- 
tween Satan's "seed," the order of 

evil, and Eve's "seed," the human 

And it will be a resistance that 
will be successful. "He"— the seed 
of the woman— will eventually tri- 
umph over Satan— "he shall bruise 
your head." In so doing, he will 
suffer in the process, for Satan 
"shall bruise his heel." Nevertheless, 
the triumph will be complete. The 
picture which the author draws is 
of a victorious man crushing the 
head of a serpent into the soil, 
though the serpent's fangs are fixed 
in his heel. 

How much the Biblical author 
realized was contained in this 
prophecy, we do not know. Prob- 
ably he had only the knowledge 
that somehow, by what manner he 
did not know, the human race 
would achieve this triumph. Prob- 
ably he thought of the "he" in 
question (which in Hebrew can 
also mean "it," that is, the "seed") 
as the human race in general. 

By the second century before 
Christ, however, we know that some 
Jews at least interpreted this pas- 
sage to refer to a single person. 


When the ancient Greek translation 
of the Hebrew Scriptures was made 
at this time, the passage was so 
interpreted in the text. By this 
time the later prophecies of the 
great teachers of Israel had clarified 
the prediction to this extent. And 
Christian teaching has rightly seen 
its final completion in the salvation 
brought through Jesus Christ. 


This prophecy in Genesis is all 
important, consequently, as the 
basis on which the later theology 
of Israel and of the Catholic 
Church has been builded, concern- 
ing the Redemption brought to sin- 
ful man through the incredible 
goodness of a loving God. 

In Romans 5:12ff. we have the 
prophetic completion and fulfill- 
ment of the story found in Genesis 
3. Here St. Paul develops, in the 
fullness of time, the religious think- 
ing of Israel, strengthened by later 
revelation, in which the whole sig- 
nificance of Adam s fall is seen in 
relation to the salvation of Christ. 
If, however, we see the fullness of 
this teaching in the New Testa- 
ment, it is only because it pre- 
supposes the Old Testament ac- 
count. Each without the other 
would be incomprehensible. 

In the above explanations we have 
expressed no religious belief that 
is not accepted by all orthodox 
Christians. The interpretation of 

the passage in Genesis has not been 
made for them so much as it has 
been for those who do not accept 
Christian teaching. 

There is the danger, when deal- 
ing with a primitive literature such 
as that of Genesis, for the modern 
reader to be sidetracked by the form 
of the text, which may cause him 
to overlook its vital significance. If 
some of the imagery employed by 
the author is strange to us, if his 
way of speaking of God is to us at 
times childish, if in speaking of the 
same religious truths we would 
employ a greatly different style of 
writing — we must not let such 
trivial considerations blind us to the 
content of what he wrote. That 
content, bear in mind, is a wisdom 
towards which some of the most 
cultivated and civilized men of 
antiquity— and of more recent times 
—have yearned and labored in vain. 
It is as foolish to reject truths sim- 
ply because of their unusual ex- 
pression as it is foolish to reject a 
man because of the strange color 
of his skin or the strange shape of 
his nose. 

This is not the place for an 
apologetics for the truths of the 
Judeo-Christian revelation. Here we 
need only warn that it would be the 
height of foolishness to despise an 
author who knew more about men 
and his destiny than all the psy- 
chologists and politicians who know 
not what he knew. 


The fioiMt and The Afk 

Not long ago a sensation- 
hunting newsman misquot- 
ed a Biblical archaelogist 
with the wholly unjustified 
announcement that the re- 
mains of Noah s Ark had 
been discovered on Mount 
Ararat in Armenia. (The 
announcement was made on 
page one; the archaelogist s 
disclaimer, the next day, ap- 
peared on a back page.) 

This was not the first instance of 
this kind, nor the first instance with 
regard to the Ark, for that matter. 
The genuine discoveries of archae- 
ology which have so magnificently 
come to the support of the Bibical 
narrative are, in actuality, no less 
startling than the discovery of 
Noah s Ark, though they are not 
quite as obvious as this to the super- 
ficial observer. Nevertheless, to the 
present date, no such tangible evi- 
dence has been discovered of the 
story told in Genesis 6-9. 

Nor will it ever be discovered, 
in all probability. The odds are all 
against it. The labors of the few 
who attempt to find it are probably 
doomed to the same frustration as 
the suspicion of the Soviet govern- 
ment ( whose territory is overlooked 
by Ararat) that such investigations 

are really spying expeditions 
of the western powers. Bib- 
lical archaelogy does not 
consist in finding Arks, but 
in interpreting potsherds, 
stones, walls, meagre inscrip- 
tions, and in piercing to- 
gether laboriously the story 
of the past. 

Nevertheless, those who 
go forth to try to find the 
Ark are less deluded than those 
who think there is no possibility 
of their ever discovering it, simply 
because it never existed. For we 
have every reason to accept the 
Biblical narrative in Genesis 6-9 
as referring to a genuinely histori- 
cal fact. 

The first thing we should try to 
do is determine the purpose that 
this story of Noah's Ark serves in 
the narrative of the first chapter of 
Genesis. In doing this, we can say 
what we know concerning the his- 
torical basis of the narrative itself, 
which is really of secondary interest 
to the author and to us. 

Having laid the theological basis 
for his religion in the picture of 
one God Who is the Creator of the 
visible world, and in particular of 
man, for whose use He made the 
world, the author of Genesis con- 


eluded his second account of crea- 
tion with the history of man's pri- 
mitive elevation to a state above 
his nature, his sin, and thus his fall 
from grace. Together with the sin 
of man were bound up the con- 
sequences of this sin — the loss of 
the gifts of immortality, of im- 
munity from concupiscence, and 
the like. 

In chapter 4 the author has 
joined to this account a history of 
Cain and Abel, and another story 
of Cain's descendants, which com- 
plements the story of man's fall and 
teaches some further lessons. 

The author has not told us pre- 
viously that Adam's fall involved a 
loss to the entire human race, 
though he had hinted at it, insofar 
as Adam and Eve were at the time 
the entire human race. In chapter 4 
he makes explicit that the fall of 
our original parents included their 
descendants as well. 

Sin Continues 

For the sin that was let loose in 
the world through Adam and Eve, 
we speedily see is a continuing 
thing in their descendants. In the 
story of Cain and Abel— originally 
a comparison, as is apparent, of the 
relative states of shepherd and 
farmer, with the preference given 
to the former— the first murder in 
the Bible is described. And in the 
genealogy of Cain, in 4:17ff., we 
see that the sin of man increases. 
Lamech, the descendant of Cain, 
exacts a vengeance of seventy-seven- 
fold for a simple insult, whereas 
the vengeance of Cain, decreed by 
the Lord, had been but sevenfold, 
and that for murder (4:15). The 

sinfulness of man, and its supreme 
sign, death, thus by the end of 
chapter 4 is shown to have increased 
in enormous proportions. This is 
the way the author of Genesis chose 
to tell us that the sin of Adam and 
Eve was an inherited sin, a sin in 
which the entire human race parti- 

Some of the details in chapter 4, 
or rather in the sources used by the 
author to make up this chapter, we 
shall consider in our next and final 
article. They were not important to 
the author in the development of 
his religious teaching, but they have 
an interest in themselves. 

Also Virtue 

At the very end of the chapter, 
the author somewhat lightens the 
picture of evil that he has drawn. 
Though sin continued and increased 
in man, he tells us, yet there was 
also good in the world. For among 
others of Adam's descendants were 
those in whose "time men began 
to call upon the name of the lord" 

After this, there follows chapter 
5, the genealogy to bridge the gap 
between Adam and the Flood. As 
we stated previously, this genealogy 
has a purpose other than simply to 
fill in the space that the author 
knew had intervened. The extra- 
ordinary ages that he assigned to 
the names in this genealogy also 
had a symbolic purpose in his re- 
ligious teaching. They are part of 
a numerical scheme that extends 
throughout the rest of the book of 

Unfortunately, the original num- 
bers as written by the author have 


been in some cases disturbed — that 
is, the text as we have it is some- 
what corrupted. This is not sur- 
prising, in view of the fact that the 
Hebrew numerical system is a com- 
plicated one, with ample opportunity 
afforded for numbers to be incor- 
rectly copied. We know that some 
of the numbers are incorrect in the 
present text, particularly in view of 
the fact that the ancient translations 
from the Hebrew, which were trans- 
lated from a Hebrew text in a 
better state of preservation than our 
own, give numbers different in part 
from the ones that we possess. 

Worthy of Life 

What the author originally in- 
tended was to decrease the ages 
with each succeeding generation. 
The purpose of this was to spell out 
graphically what he had already 
taught by implication in telling us 
that Adam was excluded from the 
tree of life, that is, the gift of im- 
mortality. Long life was a sign of 
blessedness. A short life was a curse. 
If, therefore, he would show men of 
each succeeding generation living 
shorter and shorter lives, the teach- 
ing—apparent to his readers— would 
be that, on the one hand, the gift 
originally given to Adam was most 
definitely not the possession of his 
descendants, and, on the other hand, 
that men were increasingly sinful 
and therefore less worthy of a long 

With the possible exception of 
Henoch, therefore, this scheme was 
most probably originally carried 
out. Henoch was an exception to 
the rules. He was "taken" by God, 
that is, removed from the world, 

because he "walked with God." 
Hence his age is a highly symbolic 
one, his years equalling the num- 
ber of days of a year, an ideal and 
perfect number (5:23f.)- 

The same system was carried out 
in chapter ll:10ff., except now the 
symbolic numbers were much smal- 
ler, as befitted man after the 
"second creation" symbolized by the 
Flood and its sequel. The same 
system goes into historical times, 
and is represented in the ages as- 
signed Abraham and his immediate 
descendants. The system is a some- 
what complicated one, which it is 
not necessary for us to describe here. 
It is simply necessary to note the 
original intent that the author had 
in framing the genealogy of chapter 
5 (and of chapter llilOff.). 

What purpose, then, did the story 
of the Flood serve in this develop- 

When the author had explained 
that the sin of Adam had increased 
manifold in Adam's descendants, 
he sought among his available 
sources for a story which would at 
the same time dramatize the evil 


state to which men had come, and 
also show the mercy of God and his 
desire to save men. This story he 
found in the account of the Flood. 

This story of the Flood is pre- 
served not only in the Bible, but in 
the literatures of numerous other 
peoples of the ancient East. In the 
version that is found in Babylonian 
texts, it is strikingly similar to the 
account in Genesis, pointing to a 
common, more ancient source for it 
and the Biblical account. Whereas 
the Biblical account is strictly mon- 
otheistic, however, the Babylonian 
story is childishly polytheistic and 
is corrupted with numerous super- 
stitutious elements. The Babylonian 
"Noah" has the engaging name 

The existence of this story among 
many peoples, having been handed 
down by independent traditions, is 
the best possible argument for the 
historical character of the essential 
facts that it relates. No physical 
evidence has been forthcoming to 
testify to it, just as we have no 
physical evidence, for example, that 

Julius Caesar actually was in Gaul, 
as he said he was, but the literary 
evidence is quite strong. It was 
once thought that archaeological 
excavations had shown physical 
evidence of this Flood, but that was 
a mistake. 

Historically, there is every reason 
to believe that throughout Meso- 
potamia—the home of the Hebrews' 
ancestors— in prehistoric times an 
extraordinary flood took place, 
which must have obliterated a great 
expanse of territory. There is every 
reason, even apart from the veracity 
of the Biblical account, to believe 
that there was a Noah through whose 
efforts a new start was possible 
to be made after the flood was past. 

God's Plan 

This ancient story was chosen by 
the author of Genesis to mark the 
half way point in his religious de- 
velopment leading up to Abraham. 
The Flood was, of course, a visita- 
tion upon mankind because of its 
sins. The Hebrew could not con- 
ceive of anything occurring that 
was not within God's plan for the 
world, and of course we know that 
he was right, even though things 
may not always have been quite as 
simple as he made them appear. 
The preservation of Noah anci his 
family, likewise, was through God's 
plan. If Noah and his people were 
saved, it was evidence of God's 
mercy, and evidence, too, that there 
were good men in the world, worthy 
to be saved. 

Of course, this ancient Flood did 
not cover the entire world. Such a 
thing is inconceivable and physi- 
cally impossible. Neither is it neces- 


sary to think that it destroyed all 
the human race then existing, that 
is, that it covered the entire in- 
habited world. On the face of it, 
this is most unlikely. The author 
probably believed that it did, and 
at least he wrote up his account 
from sources which said that it had, 
but we interpret his text according 
to the actual use he made of his 
sources, and the purpose he had in 
writing. This is his teaching, and 
nothing else is his teaching. 

Symbolic Story 

He was not intending to teach 
us, literally, that the entire human 
race was destroyed to a man, any 
more than in Genesis 3:8 he in- 
tended to teach us, literally, that 
God walked in a garden in the cool 
of the day. We have already noted 
that the genealogy in Genesis 10, 
which traces all the peoples of the 
earth— or at least the peoples that 
the Hebrew author knew of— from 
the three sons of Noah, intends to 
teach the unity of the human race, 
together with some other doctrinal 
matters. It is not necessary that this 
genealogy should be literally his- 
torical, and, as we have said, it 
shows signs of being highly arti- 
ficial. Neither is it necessary that 
our interpretation of the Flood 
story see it as anything more than 
a parable, a symbolic story, though 
as we have noted, the basic histori- 
cal fact behind it is fairly certain. 

We must stress again that the 
author is concerned with teaching 
religion, not natural history. He has 
used the story to illustrate religious 
teachings, and we need not press 
any conclusions from it other than 

those which he intended as the 
point of his narrative. 

Quite apart, then, from the actual 
extent of this ancient Flood, what- 
ever it may have been, its symbolic 
purpose is to teach God s punish- 
ment of mankinds sin and His 
mercy for the sake of the just, such 
as Noah was. It is also taken as the 
turning-point in God's dealing with 
man, and the beginning of a new 
era in His relations with men. 

To the Jews, the supreme act be- 
tween God and man was signified 
by the covenant enacted through 
Moses on Sinai, whereby the people 
of Israel had been selected to be 
the instruments of God's salvation 
for mankind. Looking back into 
history, the author of Genesis saw 
the ancient ages as having in some 
fashion foreshadowed and prepared 
for this great event. 

Thus, in a sense, God's relation 
to Adam had been a covenant, 
which Adam had violated and 
thereby forfeited. After the Flood 
narrative, the author will describe 
God's renewal of good relations 


with men as another covenant. 
Much later on, he will describe 
God s election of Abraham in terms 
of a covenant. The Flood itself, 
therefore, symbolizes for the author 
the end of one age and the begin- 
ning of another. The sin of Adam 
and his descendants reaches its 
climax, and the punishment of the 
Flood descends. Afterwards, God 
approaches mankind once more, in 
the person of Noah, and starts 
afresh. Men are soon sinning as 
much as ever before, to be sure, but 
the story of the whole Old Testa- 
ment, as far as that goes, is of God's 
constant effort to draw men to 
Himself, despite themselves. 

What the author is doing by 
means of this story, consequently, 
is to enunciate some rather pro- 
found religious truths, which are 
transcendant of the time, the place, 
and the extent of the Flood which 
the story tells about. They would 
be equally true even if there were 
no historical basis to the Flood at 
all, though we have good reason to 
believe in it, quite apart from the 
Biblical story. 

How many of the details within 
the story as told in Genesis we 
need to take as historically factual, 
and what is rather told us with no 
intention of being the authors 
teaching, would be difficult to say. 
Certainly as regards some of these 
details, we can see that they evident- 
ly do not pertain to the author s 
purpose at all. It is the story's 
"moral" or application, of course, 
that contains his teaching, not its 

Flood Stories Differ 

How little concern he had with 
these details, and their historical 
verification, can again be seen from 
his own work. As with the teaching 
on creation, he had used two sepa- 
rate accounts of the same story to 
tell of the Flood. In this instance, 
however, rather than tell them one 
after the other, he has combined 
them in the telling. It is not too 
difficult to separate the two sources. 
He used the two because each of 
them contained elements that he 
needed to build up his complete ac- 
count. But the details in the two 
accounts frequently conflict. 

Thus one account begins in 
6:1 Iff., in which Noah is told to 
take with him into the ark "of 
every living thing of all flesh, two 
of every sort." The command of 
God and prediction of the flood be- 
gins all over again in 7: Iff., and 
this time Noah hears that he is "to 
take with you seven pairs of all 
clean animals, the male and the 
female, and a pair of the animals 
that are not clean." In 7:6 it is 
said that "Noah was six hundred 
years old when the flood of waters 


came upon the earth." In 7:11 we 
read that "in the six hundredth 
year of Noah's life, in the second 
month, on the seventeenth day of 
the month, on that day the foun- 
tains of the great deep burst forth, 
and the windows of heaven were 
opened." In one account, e. g. 7:17, 
"the flood continued forty days 
upon the earth." In the other, e.g. 
7:24, "the waters prevailed upon 
the earth a hundred and fifty days." 

And so it goes throughout the 
entire story. There are numerous 
manifest contradictions between the 
sources which the author used. 
Again we must say it, that he was 
quite as capable as we are of notic- 
ing these contradictions. We must 
not suppose that he could write 
two almost consecutive sentences, 
in which contradictory details are 
used, and not be aware of the fact. 
We must give him credit for the 
same perception which we also 
possess. Obviously the same flood 
could not have lasted forty days a7id 
one hundred and fifty, and he knew 
it. He could not have intended to 
teach us both these statements. The 
fact that he so blithely combined 
the two in his account should be 
sufficient indication that he did not 
think the matter worth worrying 
about. He did not decide which 
was correct, if either. He was in- 
terested in using for purposes of 
his own the two stories, which he 
copied down as he found them. 

Thus while many of the details 
in the author's story are manifestly 
unhistorical, and while the original 
sense of the accounts relative to a 
total destruction of mankind need 
not be taken as literally historical. 

as it is actually used in Genesis 
the combined account serves to 
illustrate truths dear to the author's 
heart and of tremendous value to 

In 6:5ff., and 6:1 Iff., the author 
tells us that the Flood was God's 
visitation upon sinful mankind. In 
6:8, 9, I4ff., 7: Iff., we see that 
God, despite His justice which 
impels Him to punish sin, is dis- 
posed to be merciful towards the 
just. The good are not to be pun- 
ished with the evil. The same lesson 
is forcibly taught by the story of 
Abraham and Sodom and Gomor- 
rah in Genesis 18:22ff., and Genesis 

God's Blessing 

After the account of the Flood 
itself, in 8:20ff., another truth is 
taught in the words quoted of the 
Lord: "I will never again curse the 
ground because of man, for the 
imagination of man's heart is evil 
from his youth; neither will I ever 
again destroy every living creature 
as I have done." We must not look, 


says the author, to see God visit 
upon man the full consequences of 
his crimes. If He did so, the world 
would be forever blotted out. God 
is merciful, God is long suffering, 
God takes man s weakness into ac- 
count. This is the history of the 
relation of God to man. 

These lessons are repeated in 
chapter 9, where the author poeti- 
cally represents the new beginning 
made between God and Noah. Once 
again the earth is blessed and called 
upon to be fruitful and multiply. 
Once again man is called upon to 
walk in righteous ways and avoid 
sin. Once again God draws near to 
man in a covenant. 

Thus we rightly consider this 
episode as a halfway mark in the 
author's pre-history. The end is not 
yet. After the genealogy of chapter 
10, whose purpose we have already 
noted, there follows in chapter 11 
the story of the tower of Babel, 
which shows that man has learned 
nothing through the experience of 
chastisement of the past. He is still 

sinful, proud, in opposition to God. 

But having concluded with the 
genealogy of llilOff., identifying 
the various peoples of the world, 
the author has been brought to 
Abraham, with whom begins the 
story of his people. From now on 
out the story will concern not man- 
kind in general, but the Hebrew 
people whom God chose to Him- 
self that through them might come 
mercy to all the world. 

The story of the Flood, which to 
other peoples had been an interest- 
ing phenomenon to record, and to 
romanticize upon, under the hand 
of the Biblical author has taken on 
a dignity which it could otherwise 
never have possessed. Through his 
inspired pen it has been welded 
into a teaching about God, more 
profound than any known other- 
wise to his age, and never subse- 
quently surpassed. For the truths 
that he illustrated by its use, we 
know as truths today. God deals 
with us as God dealt with Noah. 


Cain's UJife ... The Toiuer of Babel 

1. It was once the practice 
of "village atheists" of the 
type of the late Colonel 
Robert Ingersoll, that terror 
of fundamentalists, when 
not asking such ungram- 
matical and theologically 
childish questions as "Why 
doesn't God kill the devil?" 
or daring the Almighty to 
strike him down in a speci- 
fied time, to use the Bible as a 
source-book of absurdities and 
contradictions. One of the favorites 
had to do with the lady who was 
Cain's wife. "Who did Cain marry, 
if there were only four people in 
the world, himself and his brother 
Abel, newly murdered, and his two 

Ordinarily the questioner over- 
looked considerable other "absurdi- 
ties" in the same context, which 
mean just as much, and just as 
little, as the one he found. Who 
was supposed to kill Cain, as he 
feared (4:14), when he was sent 
forth to be "a fugitive and a wan- 
derer on the earth"? And how is 
it that Cain was a "tiller of the 
ground" (4:2), when "Noah was 
the first tiller of the soil" (9:20)? 
And so forth. 

pects to questions of this 
kind is not that they should 
arise, but that the questioner 
somehow should think that 
he had shrewdly puzzled out 
an abstruse problem that had 
previously eluded careful 
reading of the Bible. Any 
schoolboy can recognize dis- 
crepancies of this kind. And 
the author of Genesis, whom 
we should know by now to have been 
no fool, could recognize them just as 
easily as we— far more easily, in fact. 

It is true, some of the older 
commentators were inclined to 
take these problems almost as seri- 
ously as fundamentalist interpret- 
ers, or fundamentalist scoffers like 
Ingersoll, Why this is so, has been 
dealt with in an earlier article. Our 
better understanding today of the 
nature of the composition of the 
book of Genesis, the purpose it was 
to serve, and how it was put to- 
gether from traditional source ma- 
terial, have helped us to avoid 
similar unnecessary worry. 

As to the initial propagation of 
the human race from an original 
pair of parents, we should have no 
difficulty in recognizing that there 
must have been a considerable 

One of the most surprising as- amount of intermarriage between 


very close relatives, even between 
brothers and sisters. Such marriages, 
in fact, continued down into his- 
torical times among certain peoples, 
such as the Egyptians. Among most 
people laws later forbade such mar- 
riages, and these laws were based 
on sound natural reasons. But ob- 
viously such marriages were a 
necessity in the beginning of hu- 
man history. 

This much common sense tells 
us. There is, however, nothing about 
the early propagation of mankind 
taught in the Bible. 

Cain and Abel 

The story of Cain and Abel in 
Genesis 4:1-16 has been included 
by the author not to give us infor- 
mation about Adam's immediate 
descendants, but to continue and 
amplify the story of Adam's sin 
which he expounded in the preced- 
ing chapter. To serve this purpose, 
it was necessary to have some such 
story about human sin as that which 
this account provides. 

That is the meaning of the story 
as used by the author. The original 
story itself which he used, how- 
ever, had not been intended, when 
first composed, as a story of ''first 
generation" human beings, but pre- 
supposes much later times and de- 
velopment in the human race. 

Originally the story contrasted 
the states of shepherd and farmer— 
both much later developments, of 
course— and judged in favor of the 
former, which received God's bless- 
ing. It is precisely such a story that 
would have been eagerly told by a 
shepherd people like the Israelites. 
Thus we can readily understand the 

fact that a widespread population is 
supposed by the narrative. In the 
original story, therefore, there was 
no question of any problem about 
Cain's wife or his enemies, because 
in the original story the narrative 
did not concern an immediate son 
of Adam. 

As used by the author and adapt- 
ed to his purposes, however, Cain is 
presented as Adam's immediate son. 
In this way the author can show 
better the connection between the 
sin of murder and Adam's fall. But 

as the author was not concerned 
with questions of generation and 
marriage, the purely natural facts 
of early human history, he has left 
the details in the story without 
alteration. It is consequently er- 
roneous to try to find literary con- 
nections between chapters 3 and 4 
that the author did not intend. 

Another point that the author 
wanted to make in this story was 
the increase of sin among Adam's 
descendants, gradually building up 
to the climax of the Flood. Thus, 
at the end of the Cain episode, 
when Cain fears that he will be 
destroyed by men for his crime, he 


is assured by the Lord that the fear 
of terrible vengeance, sevenfold, 
will dissuade men. This supposes 
the tribal times, when blood re- 
venge was taken on a man s rela- 
tives for his own crimes. It is the 
author's way of telling us how 
strong and unchecked the tendency 
to murder and lawlessness became. 

The theme carries over in the 
next episode, the story of Lamech. 
Lamech, who is connected with 
Cain by a genealogy to show his 
connection, is seen as extending 
and increasing the violence charac- 
teristic of Cain. This passage, (4:17- 
24), is another ancient source taken 
over by the author and joined to 
the preceding. Originally it con- 
tained various other bits of knowl- 
edge, such as the names of the 
traditional originators of the vari- 
ous arts and crafts, but the author 
of Genesis has not included it for 
these purposes, which hardly con- 
cern him. 


His use is confined to the pic- 
ture of Lamech, descendant of 
Cain, by whose time blood ven- 
geance is now exacted seventy- 
sevenfold, and no longer simply 
for murder, but for an insult. 

When the Pentateuch reaches 
the point of setting forth the 
Mosaic Law, it will be seen how 
genuinely the latter was a vast im- 
provement over the misrule before 
the covenant of Sinai. The Mosaic 
legislation will restrict vengeance 
to the norm of strict justice: "An 
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" 
(Ex. 21:24). Christ will substitute 
for it the even more perfect law 

of charity: "Forgive not seven 
times, but seventy times seven" 
(Matthew 18:22). 

As already noted, the author of 
Genesis has added at the end of 
chapter 4 a short reference to others 
of Adam's descendants, to show that 
Cain and Lamech the picture is not 
complete. There were also good 
men in the world. 

Author's Meaning 

2. One of the most intriguing 
passages in the first eleven chapters 
of Genesis is 6:1-4. "When men 
began to multiply on the face of 
the ground, and daughters were 
born to them, the sons of God saw 
that the daughters of men were 
fair; and they took to wife such of 

them as they chose The Nephil- 

im were on the earth in those days, 
and also afterward, when the sons 
of God came in to the daughters 
of men, and they bore children to 
them. These were the mighty men 
that were of old, the men of re- 

It is not difficult to see what the 
author intended these verses to 
mean in his story, for they serve 
as the immediate introductory to 
the story of the Flood, and his own 
commentary on their meaning is 
contained in 6:5: "The Lord saw 
that the wickedness of man was 
great in the earth, and that every 
imagination of the thoughts of his 
heart was only evil continually." 

The difficulty consists in deter- 
mining what the passage originally 
meant, before it was taken from 
its earlier context and incorporated 
by the author in the story of Genesis. 

Apparently the story was origi- 


nally a myth describing the genera- 
tion of the Nephilim, or giants, 
also identified as the "mighty men," 
similar to the "titans" of Greek 
mythology, from a union of gods 
and human women. The "sons of 
God" in 6:2 probably originally 
meant "the gods," that is, "sons-of 
god." This term is used for the gods 
in the languages of the Canaanites, 
Babylonians, and others with whom 
the Israelites had contact. A belief 
in a primitive superhuman race of 
giants was common in the folklore 
of ancient peoples. 

This was, therefore, in all likeli- 
hood what the passage meant when 
it had been first composed. But that 
is not what the author of Genesis 
meant by using it. 

Whether he believed in an an- 
cient race of giants or not, we do 
not know. The point is immaterial. 
He certainly did not believe in the 
gods of pagan mythology, and he 
consequently did not believe that 
there could be a union of marriage 
between them and men. 

Regardless of their original mean- 
ing, therefore, he probably intended 
"sons of God" in his narrative to 
stand for the good people of the 
earth, symbolized by the descend- 
ants of Seth, and the "daughters of 
men" to refer to the evil people, 
symbolized by the descendants of 
Cain. Hence under his transforming 
hands this myth ceases to be a 
myth and is worked into a develop- 
ment that expresses a historical 
fact. The evil and good people of 
the world, he says, were hopelessly 
intermingled. One of the specific 
evils of those ancient times which 
he wished to condemn was polyga- 

my. Hence the emphasis on the fact 
that "they took to wife such of 
them as they chose" (6:2). Thus 
he is prepared to make the sum- 
mation of V.5 that leads into the 
Lord's decision to bring on the 
chastisement of the Flood. 

3. In Genesis (11:1-9) occurs the 
famous story of the tower of Babel. 
We have already briefly noted the 
purpose that this story plays in the 
author's scheme of Genesis. By it 
he shows that, even after the chas- 
tisement of the Flood, men re- 
mained evil, likely to rebellion 
against God, filled with pride and 
their own self-sufficiency. 

Meaning of Babel 

The original purpose served by 
the account, however, before it was 
used by the author, was somewhat 
different. It was a primitive at- 
tempt to explain the origins of the 
various languages in the world. 

The story is obviously Mesopo- 
tamian in origin. It describes an 
event that took place in Shinar, the 
ancient word for Babylonia. The 
building described is typically 
Mesopotamian: mud bricks joined 
together with bitumen or asphalt. 
The ancient cities that have come 
to light beneath the archaeologist's 
spade in Mesopotamia were con- 
structed precisely in this way. There 
was probably the construction of 
some extraordinary tower that pro- 
vides the historical basis of the 
story. The "tower" in question, in- 
cidentally, was the ziggurat, or 
great stepped temple that was the 
characteristic of Mesopotamian cit- 

The original purpose of the story 


was to explain the origin of differ- 
ent languages as the means adopted 
by the Deity to disperse the men 
who were building this temple. 
Thus a play on words is made, be- 
tween Babel, the supposed location 
of the site of the tower, and the 
Hebrew word bald, "confuse," "be- 
cause there the Lord confused the 
language of all the earth." This is 
known as "popular etymology," ex- 
tremely common in the Bible and 
ancient literature in general. We 
could, more heartlessly and less 
pedantically, call it "punning." The 
name Babel was actually derived 
from two Babylonian words mean- 
ing "the gate of the god." 

In taking over this story and 
using it for his purposes, the author 
of Genesis did not intend this naive 
explanation of the world's lan- 
guages to be included as part of 
his teaching. In the first place, we 
know that his purpose in writing 
Genesis was not to do any such 
thing. Furthermore, in the geneal- 
ogy given in chapter 10, he has 
already supposed the "languages, 
families, and nations" to be deter- 
mined throughout the world (10:5, 
20, 31, 32). 

A Vast Subject 

4. Obviously we have been unable 
to do much more than scratch the 
surface in these few pages regard- 
ing some of the problems of inter- 
pretation and incidental difficulties 
of the first chapters of Genesis. 
There are many more problems 
which we have not considered. 
There are many other facts which 
should be taken into consideration 
in offering an adequate understand- 

ing of this interesting book of the 

We feel, however, that we have 
at least been able to take up in a 
satisfactory manner the chief teach- 
ings of the Biblical author, and to 
dismiss at least a few of the diffi- 
culties that beset the path of the 
ordinary reader. 

The foregoing synthesis repre- 
sents a sketchy summary of what 
we consider to be the best opinion 
on the meaning of Genesis now 
held by Catholic Biblical scholars. 
In this interpretation they are fol- 
lowing out the directives of the 
Pontifical Biblical Commission, in- 
stituted by the Pope to promote 

Biblical studies, which wrote in 

"The question of the literary 
forms of the first eleven chapters of 
Genesis is . . . obscure and complex. 
These literature forms do not cor- 
respond to any of our classical 
categories and cannot be judged in 
the light of the Greco-Latin or 
modern literary types. It is there- 
fore impossible to deny or to affirm 
their historicity as a whole without 
unduly applying to them norms of 
a literary type under which they 


cannot be classed. If it is agreed 
not to see in these chapters history 
in the classical and modern sense, 
it must be admitted also that known 
scientific facts do not allow a 
positive solution of all the problems 
which they present. The first duty 
in this matter incumbent on scien- 
tific exegesis consists in the careful 
study of all the problems, literary, 
scientific, historical, cultural, and 
religious connected with these chap- 
ters; in the next place is required 
a close examination of the literary 
methods of the ancient oriental 
peoples, their psychology, their 
manner of expressing themselves, 
and even their notion of historical 
truth; the requisite, in a word, is 
to assemble without preformed 
judgments all the material of the 
palaeontological and historical, epi- 
graphical and literary sciences. It 
is only in this way that there is 
hope of attaining a clearer view of 
the true nature of certain narratives 
in the first chapters of Genesis." 

New Interpretations 

Commenting on these words, one 
of the most distinguished and old- 
est of the non-Catholic Biblical 
journals stated: "It would be hard 
to state more explicitly the attitude 
of the best modern Old Testament 
scholarship towards the problems 
of the early chapters of Genesis." 

Some believing Christians will 
find a few of these explanations 
new. That is to be expected. Biblical 
interpretation has not, happily, re- 
mained stagnant while all the other 

sciences and arts have been busily 
developing. Better explanations 
than those now offered, we may 
devoutly hope, will be included in 
what the future will bring. To all, 
Catholic and non-Catholic, we can 
do no better than cite the words of 
Pius XII, written in his famous 
encyclical letter of 1943 for the 
promotion of Biblical studies: 

Hear The Church 

"Let all the children of the 
Church . . . avoid that somewhat in- 
discreet zeal which considers every- 
thing new to -be for that very 
reason a fit object for attack or 
suspicion. Let them remember 
above all that the rules and laws 
laid down by the Church are con- 
cerned with the doctrine of faith 
and morals; and that among the 
many matters set forth in the legal, 
historical, sapiential and propheti- 
cal books of the Bible, there are 
only a few whose sense has been 
defined by the authority of the 
Church, and that there are equally 
few concerning which the opinion 
of the Holy Fathers is unanimous 
. . . The true freedom of the sons of 
God, loyally maintaining the doc- 
trine of the Church, and at the 
same time gratefully accepting as a 
gift of God, and exploiting every 
contribtuion that secular knowledge 
may afford, must be vindicated and 
upheld by the zeal of all, for it is 
the condition and source of any real 
success, of any solid progress in 
Catholic science." 

The word of our God endures 
forever! (Isaias 40:8). 


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St. Louis, February 2, 1955 
Published in United States of America